Acquired brain injury (ABI) can result in impairments in motor function, language, cognition, and sensory processing, and in emotional disturbances, which can severely reduce a survivor's quality of life. Music interventions have been used in rehabilitation to stimulate brain functions involved in movement, cognition, speech, emotions, and sensory perceptions. An update of the systematic review published in 2010 was needed to gauge the efficacy of music interventions in rehabilitation for people with ABI.
To assess the effects of music interventions for functional outcomes in people with ABI. We expanded the criteria of our existing review to: 1) examine the efficacy of music interventions in addressing recovery in people with ABI including gait, upper extremity function, communication, mood and emotions, cognitive functioning, social skills, pain, behavioural outcomes, activities of daily living, and adverse events; 2) compare the efficacy of music interventions and standard care with a) standard care alone, b) standard care and placebo treatments, or c) standard care and other therapies; 3) compare the efficacy of different types of music interventions (music therapy delivered by trained music therapists versus music interventions delivered by other professionals).
We searched the Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register (January 2016), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2015, Issue 6), MEDLINE (1946 to June 2015), Embase (1980 to June 2015), CINAHL (1982 to June 2015), PsycINFO (1806 to June 2015), LILACS (1982 to January 2016), and AMED (1985 to June 2015). We handsearched music therapy journals and conference proceedings, searched dissertation and specialist music databases, trials and research registers, reference lists, and contacted relevant experts and music therapy associations to identify unpublished research. We imposed no language restriction. We performed the original search in 2009.
We included all randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trials that compared music interventions and standard care with standard care alone or combined with other therapies. We examined studies that included people older than 16 years of age who had ABI of a non-degenerative nature and were participating in treatment programmes offered in hospital, outpatient, or community settings. We included studies in any language, published and unpublished.
Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias of the included studies. We contacted trial researchers to obtain missing data or for additional information when necessary. Where possible, we presented results for continuous outcomes in meta-analyses using mean differences (MDs) and standardised mean differences (SMDs). We used post-test scores. In cases of significant baseline difference, we used change scores. We conducted a sensitivity analysis to assess the impact of the randomisation method.
We identified 22 new studies for this update. The evidence for this update is based on 29 trials involving 775 participants. A music intervention known as rhythmic auditory stimulation may be beneficial for improving the following gait parameters after stroke. We found a reported increase in gait velocity of 11.34 metres per minute (95% confidence interval (CI) 8.40 to 14.28; 9 trials; 268 participants; P < 0.00001; moderate-quality evidence). Stride length of the affected side may also benefit, with a reported average of 0.12 metres more (95% CI 0.04 to 0.20; 5 trials; 129 participants; P = 0.003; moderate-quality evidence). We found a reported average improvement for general gait of 7.67 units on the Dynamic Gait Index (95% CI 5.67 to 9.67; 2 trials; 48 participants; P < 0.00001). There may also be an improvement in gait cadence, with a reported average increase of 10.77 steps per minute (95% CI 4.36 to 17.18; 7 trials; 223 participants; P = 0.001; low-quality evidence).Music interventions may be beneficial for improving the timing of upper extremity function after stroke as scored by a reduction of 1.08 seconds on the Wolf Motor Function Test (95% CI -1.69 to -0.47; 2 trials; 122 participants; very low-quality evidence).Music interventions may be beneficial for communication outcomes in people with aphasia following stroke. Overall, communication improved by 0.75 standard deviations in the intervention group, a moderate effect (95% CI 0.11 to 1.39; 3 trials; 67 participants; P = 0.02; very low-quality evidence). Naming was reported as improving by 9.79 units on the Aachen Aphasia Test (95% CI 1.37 to 18.21; 2 trials; 35 participants; P = 0.02). Music interventions may have a beneficial effect on speech repetition, reported as an average increase of 8.90 score on the Aachen Aphasia Test (95% CI 3.25 to 14.55; 2 trials; 35 participants; P = 0.002).There may be an improvement in quality of life following stroke using rhythmic auditory stimulation, reported at 0.89 standard deviations improvement on the Stroke Specific Quality of Life Scale, which is considered to be a large effect (95% CI 0.32 to 1.46; 2 trials; 53 participants; P = 0.002; low-quality evidence). We found no strong evidence for effects on memory and attention. Data were insufficient to examine the effect of music interventions on other outcomes.The majority of studies included in this review update presented a high risk of bias, therefore the quality of the evidence is low.
Music interventions may be beneficial for gait, the timing of upper extremity function, communication outcomes, and quality of life after stroke. These results are encouraging, but more high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed on all outcomes before recommendations can be made for clinical practice.