TORONTO, Aug. 11 (Stephen Feller) — Researchers found the brains of people with epilepsy react to music differently than the brains of people without the condition, which may lead to new methods of preventing or intervening in seizures.
“We were surprised by the findings,” said Dr. Charlene Charyton, an adjunct assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in a press release. “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.”
Charyton, who presented the study at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting, said she started the study because the part of the brain that processes music, the auditory cortex, is located in the same part of the brain tied to about 80 percent of epilepsy cases, the temporal lobe.
Researchers worked with 21 patients who were in the epilepsy monitoring unit at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center between September 2012 and May 2014 to compare music processing in their brains and the brains of people without epilepsy.
After attaching electrodes to the scalps of participants, the researchers measured their brain waves while playing 10 minutes of silence, followed by either Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, andante movement, or John Coltrane‘s rendition of “My Favorite Things.” The musical selection was followed by another period of silence, the other musical piece they had not heard yet, and a third period of silence.
Significantly higher levels of of brain activity was detected while all of the participants were listening to music, however the brain waves of epileptic patients synchronized more with the music than those without epilepsy.
Although Charyton said that music can’t replace every treatment for epilepsy, the findings show that music may help either to prevent seizures or as an intervention during a seizure as an additional treatment.