Music and Mindful Music Listening May Improve Cognitive Ability in Stroke Patients

mindful music stroke and cognitive abilityNew research shows that mindfulness music may help those who have suffered a stroke to recover impaired cognitive ability. The study published in the International Journal of Stroke reported the outcomes of a study that aimed to investigate the effect of combining music listening and mindfulness techniques on recovery of cognitive ability after a stroke.

The study titled The Measuring the Effects of Listening for Leisure on Outcome After Stroke, or MELLO, involved 72 participants from acute stroke units within the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area in the UK. Each patient had suffered an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, which is caused when blood flow supply to the brain is blocked, for example, due to a blood clot in the brain.


The study involved placing participants into three groups. One of the groups was asked to listen to music, another to music combined with mindfulness practice, and the last group to audiobooks. They all used an iPod and had to listen for an hour a day for eight weeks during their recovery immediately after being discharged from the hospital.

They were all free to choose their own books and music and were required to keep a daily written record of their listening patterns. The researchers followed up with each participant on a weekly basis and recorded progress. The participants in the mindfulness and music group were also taught two five-minute exercises that were designed to help with attention if their mind wandered while listening.

The researchers conducted tests of attention, mood, and memory at the beginning of the study. They followed up with the same tests at the three and six-month markers after the stroke to determine how each participant’s cognitive functions and mood changed as a result of the listening.

Increased Cognitive Ability

At the end of the eight-week listening period, they found that participants in the mindful music listening group felt relaxed and had increased cognitive ability as they were able to concentrate, focus, and manage emotions after listening. The patients in the music listening group also often reported that the music increased their activity levels. Both music listening groups reported that music stimulated recall of memories from the past. Both music groups also showed better recovery of memory functions compared to the audiobook group. Between all three groups, there was no difference in mood.


Lead author of the study, Dr. Satu Baylan, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, said “People who have suffered a stroke are often left with cognitive difficulties that affect the ability to concentrate and remember information yet there is limited rehabilitation input for these problems. Many people also experience low mood and anxiety, which can have a negative impact on recovery and their level of engagement in everyday activities.

“Previous research has suggested that daily music listening might improve memory and attention after stroke. Mindfulness on the other hand is known to improve mood in the general population and in those with depression but there is very little examination of mindfulness in people after stroke. We were keen to investigate whether combining music listening with mindfulness might help address some of the difficulties that people commonly face after a stroke using an approach that can potentially be both enjoyable and accessible.

Professor Jonathan Evans, the paper’s principal investigator and corresponding author said, “Although more research is needed, the MELLO study’s encouraging results suggest that this low-cost intervention, which can be done at home, may have positive benefits for people recovering from a stroke. What is particularly positive is that our results are consistent with another study done in Finland that also found that daily music listening improved memory and concentration, compared to audiobook listening or usual care.”