- Updated 15:24 29 August 2012 by Helen Thomson
- For similar stories, visit the The Human Brain Topic Guide
Listening to a favourite song might boost the brain’s ability to respond to other stimuli in people with disorders of consciousness.
Music has been shown to have a beneficial influence on cognitive process in healthy people and those who have brain damage. For example, daily music therapy can help to enhance cognitive recovery after a stroke.
Fabien Perrin at the University of Lyon, France, and colleagues recorded brain activity in four patients – two in a coma, one in a minimally conscious state, and one in a vegetative state – while they were read a list of people’s names, including the subject’s own name. The list was preceded either by the subject’s favourite music – chosen by family and friends – or by “musical noise”. One patient listened to The Eagles’ Hotel California, another was played the Blues Brothers’ Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. The team then repeated the experiment with ten healthy volunteers.
In all four patients, playing the music rather than musical noise enhanced the quality of the brain’s subsequent response to their own name, bringing it closer to the brain response of the ten healthy volunteers to hearing their own name, whether or not it was preceded by music or musical noise. The work was presented at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness meeting in Brighton, UK, last month.