Music therapy could assist people suffering from epilepsy, according to a new study. Investigators found the frequency of seizures was reduced when music therapy was utilized.

Ohio State University researchers found that the brains of people who suffer from epilepsy process music in a different fashion than those who do not experience the condition.

Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of the condition, affecting 80 percent of the people stricken with the disorder. These seizures originate in the temporal lobe of the brain, a region that contains the auditory complex, which processes music. This connection is what inspired this latest study.

Researchers examined the brainwaves of 21 people who experienced epilepsy, as well as those who did not, as they listened to music, interspersed with moments of silence. Musical selections included Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos" in D major and "My Favorite Things" by John Coltrane. The order in which the two pieces were heard by the subjects was randomized. A 10-minute period of silence preceded and followed each musical composition.

The amount of brainwave activity in the subjects being studied increased as they listened to music. In patients with epilepsy, these brainwaves were even more synchronized with the music than in brains of people not suffering from the condition.

"We found significantly higher levels of synchronization and spectral EEG activation when listening to music in the frontal cortex and temporal cortex, especially in persons with epilepsy. We speculate that music may be useful to enhance electrical activity specific to the frontal and temporal cortices," researchers wrote in a paper summarizing their results.

Although music may help some patients with epilepsy avoid seizures, listening to a favorite album is not likely to replace traditional medical treatments anytime soon.

Epilepsy is a fairly common condition, driven by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Not all people who have seizures have epilepsy, and not all people with the condition suffer from seizures. This makes diagnosis of the condition difficult. Compounding the problem are pseudoseizures, experienced by some people, which are often driven by stress.

"We were surprised by the findings. We hypothesized that music would be processed in the brain differently than silence. We did not know if this would be the same or different for people with epilepsy," Christine Charyton from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said.

Epilepsy affects roughly 2.5 million Americans and between 0.5 and one percent of the world's population. Approximately nine percent of people living in the United States will have a seizure at least once during their lives.

Photo: Hernan Pinera | Flickr

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