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Neurologic Music Therapy in Neurorehabilitation

Categories: Research, Professionals

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is the therapeutic use of music applied to sensory, speech and language, cognitive, and motor dysfunctions after a neurologic event or diagnosis. The therapy is based on neuroscience research on how music is processed and perceived in the brain, and how we can use that as a tool in neurorehabilitation to improve non-musical goals. We know from this research that being actively or passively engaged in music-making accesses and stimulates multiple areas of the brain bilaterally. Engaging in music has been shown to facilitate neuroplasticity, therefore positively influencing quality of life and overall functioning. Research has shown that music activates cognitive, motor, and speech centers in the brain through accessing shared neural systems. NMT interventions are based on the scientific knowledge of music perception and production and the effects of this treatment on nonmusical brain and behavior functions. There is no required musical ability for patients to participate in or benefit from NMT!

The populations that Neurologic Music Therapists treat include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Stroke
  • Coma Recovery
  • Autism
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Other dementias and neurologic conditions

NMT cognitive treatment areas include attention, arousal, auditory perception, spatial neglect, executive functioning, and memory. Within these interventions, music provides stimulation and structure to the brain, introduces timing, grouping, and synchronization for better organization, and recruits parallel brain systems.

Speech and language treatment areas of NMT include expressive aphasia, fluency, prosody, apraxia, vocalization, coordination, volume, breath and oral motor control, respiratory strength, dysarthria, articulation, intelligibility, and comprehension. Speech and singing share neural systems, which means that we can use music and singing to positively impact many speech and language goal areas.

NMT motor treatment areas include rehabilitation of gait as well as fine and gross motor movements including strength, endurance, balance, range of motion, coordination, and dexterity. By using auditory rhythm to facilitate entrainment, we see an improvement in motor control! We use the therapeutic application and spatial placement of musical instruments to accomplish these goals.

This type of treatment is growing rapidly, and is quickly becoming an integrated therapy in neurorehabilitation across the country. Just like other therapeutic disciplines, NMT provides specific, individualized, and standardized interventions to treat primary goal areas. We also work closely alongside PT, OT, and SLP to provide the highest quality of care to patients in neurorehabilitation. Other disciplines are welcome to complete the NMT training and incorporate aspects of this work into their care within their scope of practice. Training dates can be found here.


Thaut, Michael, and Volker Hoemberg. Handbook of Neurologic Music Therapy. Oxford University Press, 2014.

This article was contributed by Chrissy Stack, M.S., MT-BC, NMT, CBIS, Neurologic Music Therapist at MedRhythms, and Brian Harris, MT-BC, NMT, CEO at MedRhythms.