From the Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2008

Whether it’s jazz, blues or a Finnish folk song, music may do more than soothe nerves and inspire a little air guitar. It may help stroke victims recover specific verbal and cognitive functions.

In a six-month study of 60 recent stroke victims ages 35 to 75, researchers in Finland found that exposure to music for at least one hour a day improved verbal memory by 60 percent, compared with an 18 percent improvement among participants listening to audio books. In addition, as reported in the journal Brain, exposure to music led to a 17 percent boost in performance on concentration tasks, such as mental subtraction.

“The study suggests that music-listening could be used as a leisure activity that might provide comfort and help cognitive recovery,” says lead author Teppo Sarkamo, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki Department of Psychology and the Helsinki Brain Research Center.

It’s important to keep in mind that music alone can’t work miracles, Sarkamo adds. “Music-listening should not be considered as an alternative to other active rehabilitation methods,” he says. “But…in the early recovery stage, when other rehabilitation is not yet possible, music could provide a valuable addition to the patient’s care.”