Can Music Aid Patients Recovering from Actue Brain Injury?

I recently met up with a friend of mine who is a music teacher and as we chatted she began to tell me about one of her students.  Unexpectedly, an amazing story unfolded about a young woman whose life was marred by tragedy.

The student was a vibrant 19 year old who had a passion for horses.  A passion that unfortunately led to a tragic accident.  The young woman, let’s call her Sara, received a serious head injury leaving her in a coma for over 7 months.

While much of the detail of Sara’s condition from a medical standpoint is unknown, what is known is that her parents dutifully kept her ipod charged and plugged into her ears throughout her stay in the hospital.

My friend came to know Sara upon her exit from the hospital.  For students that are unable to attend school due to serious debilitation, a program called Home Hospital is available in some areas (it happens to be available in Martinez, CA; Contra Costa County) where a certified Teacher comes into the home to work with these students.  The program required no advanced certification beyond that of a Teacher’s credentials and could serve handicapped students with any number of afflictions.

In the case of Sara, my friend was asked to come into the home and work on simple rehabilitation-focused activities.  At best, my friend was told, Sara may regain the ability to perform some simple self grooming tasks.

During one session Sara surprised my friend when she uttered the words “money honey”.  Over several sessions these words were repeated and not knowing the meaning my friend was telling the story to a friend, who immediately recognized the words as being from a song by Lady Gaga.  Sensing an opportunity to engage Sara, my friend played the song in question and Sara surprisingly knew every word.

Here was a person who could barley communicate and only had partial use of her left arm.  Now, Sara was demonstrating perfect recall of the lyrics of the songs that had been played in her ears all those long months in the coma.  Sara was even able to complete lyrical phrases when the first portion was spoken. As time went on, Sara’s progress continued on a startling pace making the original predictions of being able to perform simple tasks as an simple underestimation.

In addition to the music-based therapy, my friend was lucky enough to be in contact with individuals who specialize in treating patients recovering from acute brain injury and was soon in possession of materials and resources to further enhance the sessions.  Surely a combination of different therapies and techniques and other care givers all culminated in a better-than-expected recovery timeline.

However, I couldn’t tear myself away from the possibility of a link between memory and recovery of speech and other motor skills.  Hence, we come to the question at the heart of this article:

Can Music Aid Patients Recovering from Acute Brain Injury?

If playing music post-injury, during coma-like scenarios can be recalled in the months following then perhaps memory can tell us more about how the brain works during recovery.  I keep thinking about Sara and others like her wondering if simulation of the mind directly after injury does something miraculous, even if it is still unrecognized.

Doctor/Patient Communication Key in Fight Against Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescription

Patient satisfaction is essential to doctors in all settings and nowhere is this more important than in the general practitioner’s office.  Satisfied patients typically have more trust for their doctors, follow medical instructions more readily, and return consistently for followups and other types of appointments.  Dissatisfied patients can be difficult to manage at best and in many cases simply switch providers or delay seeking care.

One area that challenges medical professionals today is the expectation from the patient that Antibiotics can and will help most any illness.  Always under pressure to keep appointment durations tightly controlled leads some doctors to choose between taking the time to explain why antibiotics won’t help with certain illnesses and simply prescribing an antibiotic for the patient’s comfort.

Recommendations for Doctor/Patient communication include telling parents of young children that unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful by creating conditions where resistance is more likely to develop.  Also, by speaking with patients in a consultative manner as opposed to a mere dispensation of information will encourage patients to think more critically about their condition and any potential unintended effects.  There should be no underestimation of the power of taking one’s patient seriously.

For adults cases of pharyngitis, most instances are self-limiting and are best helped by traditional care methodologies.  Ensuring that the patient is aware of the power of supportive care during illnesses is imperative in defeating the obligatory expectation of antibiotic treatment.  In the case of rhinosinusitis many cases are viral, upper respiratory tract infections although differentiation between viral and bacterial is challenging.  Symptoms lasting for less than 7 days are less likely to have a bacterial infection.  Guidelines for practitioners for adults and children are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients themselves are also a necessary part of the equation in preventing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Knowing that there is a difference between a viral and bacterial infection can only help today’s doctors communicate more effectively with patients.  Truly, the Doctor/Patient nexus is the one of the most effective and accessible methods for turning the tide against the potential for antibiotic resistance in ourselves and our communities.