A recent article posted by the Healthcare Professionals Network introduces neurologist Kamal Chemali.  Not only is he an accomplished professional as the director of the Neuromuscular and Autonomic Neurology Center at Sentara Healthcare, but he is also a musician.

In this article, Chemali discusses his journey that led him to neurology and to using music within his practice, a term he named “clinical music therapy”.  Chemali observed the emotional and physical alleviating effect music had on patients when he performed music during his time in medical school.  Because of this experience and for his love of music, Chemali created Sentara’s Music and Medicine Center five years ago that uses music as a treatment for neurologic conditions.

This article mentions music’s ability on “improving mood, managing pain, and reducing anxiety.”  They also comment that clinical music therapy can “improve functionality and reduce certain symptoms of neurological disorders.”  When asked why, Chemali explained that music’s effect starts in the autonomic nervous system.  Chemali describes how he uses music listening as a therapeutic agent.  Chemali continues to advocate for music therapy so that it can be administered much like physical therapy; a necessary treatment provided within a hospital setting that is covered by insurance companies.

The article ends with a quote from Chemali stating, “People don’t know about [the effectiveness of music therapy].  This is where we need to work.  And progress will be made as more people start talking about it.”

This last statement made by Chemali is an extremely valid one.  Yes, as the serge of research on music neuroscience becomes more available and advanced, this field will continue to become more credible within clinical and everyday language.  Advocacy for this field is one of our goals and while this article was informative, appropriate, and helpful, it missed critical marks in promoting this growing field.  Chemali calls his use of music “clinical music therapy”,however, what he was describing is in fact, Neurologic Music Therapy.

Chemali helps to bring attention to this field within this article.  But both Chemali and the author would greatly benefit from the knowledge that a Neurologic Music Therapist can offer in this conversation.  Chemali states that music’s affect starts in the autonomic nervous system.  The article states that our heartbeats, breathing, and blood pressure are rhythmic systems that can be influenced by rhythm in music by entrainment.  But that is not all. When we engage in music our brains are globally activated.  Music is a whole brain process.  Furthermore, 97% of humans respond this way to music.  The scientific research that fuels NMT interventions is based on this relationship between music and the brain.

Music listening has it’s own benefits as a treatment for improving mood, pain, and reducing anxiety and depression.  These are intrinsic elements of music.  These symptoms are a natural positive outcome within NMT.  But NMT is specifically more of a science-based and effective method of functional standardized interventions in which music is used as a tool to facilitate changes in the brain.  Brain change is evident by the strengthening of our neurons, therefore rewiring and retraining the injured brain.

NMT is a growing field and there are many hospitals that endorse and offer NMT to their patients. NMT is billable by insurance and is considered with the clinical likes of Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy.  Advancing music neuroscience research and awareness of NMT within popular and professional publishing places NMT as the home base mark on the brain, music, and rehabilitation map.  This article is a start, and while Chemali understands this relationship, NMT needs to continue to be advocated effectively as the beneficial field that it is. #NMT #musicitsscience

By: Steph Mathioudakis, MedRhythms Blogger

Image: http://art2.sewanee.edu/class/fypsummers/files/2014/08/con-doctor.jpg