Researchers from the Parkinson''s Disease and Movement Disorders Centre at the University of Pavia in Italy explored the efficacy of active music therapy (MT) on improving motor and emotional functions in patients with PD. Music is believed to act as a specific stimulus through unique sensory pathways, different from movement and practice alone.

This prospective, randomized, controlled, single-blinded study lasted 3 months and consisted of weekly sessions of music therapy (MT) and physical therapy (PT, consisting of. Thirty-two patients with PD, all stable responders to levodopa, in Hoehn and Yahr stage 2 or 3, were randomly assigned to two groups, MT or PT, of 16 patients each.

The severity of PD symptoms was assessed with the Unified Parkinson''s Disease Rating Scale; emotional functions with the Happiness Measure; and quality of life using the Parkinson''s Disease Quality of Life Questionnaire. MT sessions consisted of choral singing, voice exercise, rhythmic and free body movements, and active music involving collective invention. The PT group used passive stretching exercises, specific motor tasks, and strategies to improve balance and gait.

The study found that the music therapy group achieved a significant overall effect on bradykinesia (slowness at starting movements) as measured by the Unified Parkinson''s Disease Rating Scale (p < .034). Post-MT session findings showed motor improvement, especially in bradykinesia items (p < .0001). Over time, changes on the Happiness Measure confirmed a beneficial effect on emotional functions (p < .0001). Improvements in activities of daily living and in quality of life were also documented in the MT group (p < .0001).

PT improved rigidity (p < .0001). The study concludes that music therapy is effective on motor, affective, and behavioral functions, and recommends that this intervention be included in standard rehabilitation programs.

Citation: Pacchetti C, Mancini F, Aglieri R, Fundaro C, Martignoni E, Nappi G. Active music therapy in Parkinson''s disease: an integrative method for motor and emotional rehabilitation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2000 May-Jun; 62 (3): pages 386-93. [email protected]