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Music therapy, depression and frontal brain activity

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Gabriela Pavarini.

A recent Cochrane review indicated that music therapy has potential for the treatment of depression. Depression has an impact on frontal processing of emotion. Antidepressant medication is tested with biomarkers of frontal brain activity.and frontal resting state changes are crucial for determining treatment effects. Fronto-temporal (FT) areas process shared elements of speech and music. Improvisational psychodynamic music therapy (MT) utilises verbal and musical reflection on emotions and images arising from clinical improvisation. A few studies show that music listening is shifting frontal alpha asymmetries (FAA) in depression, and increases frontal midline theta (FMT) while listening to preferred music, but we do not know about the impact of active music making on brain activity in depression. Thus we were interested to see if MT has an impact on anterior resting state alpha and theta of depressed clients with comorbid anxiety. This presentation explores results of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) with 79 depressed clients comparing standard care (SC) and MT added to SC at intake (pre) and after 3 months (post). Correlations between selected rest EEG features and psychiatric measures of depression and anxiety were calculated in order to examine MT’s lasting impact on frontal processing. MT improved depression and anxiety scores. Pre/post MT frontal alpha and theta asymmetry differed from SC, Further, pre/post MT change scores for frontal midline theta and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-A) were significant. Verbal reflection and improvising on emotions in MT added to SC seems to induce neural reorganisation in front-temporal areas. Alpha and theta changes in FT and temporo-parietal areas indicate MT action and treatment effects on cortical activity in depression, suggesting an impact of MT on anxiety reduction. Results indicate FT areas as regions of interest for further investigation of MT treatment in depression.

This talk is part of the The Centre for Music and Science (CMS) series.

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