Using musical instruments to improve motor skill recovery following a stroke


In previous studies, it was shown that there is a need for efficient motor rehabilitation approaches. For this purpose, we evaluated a music-supported training program designed to induce an auditory–sensorimotor co-representation of movements in 20 stroke patients (10 affected in the left and 10 in the right upper extremity). Patients without any previous musical experience participated in an intensive step by step training, first of the paretic extremity, followed by training of both extremities. Training was applied 15 times over 3 weeks in addition to conventional treatment. Fine as well as gross motor skills were addressed by using either a MIDI-piano or electronic drum pads. As a control, 20 stroke patients (10 affected left and 10 right) undergoing exclusively conventional therapies were recruited. Assignment to the training and control groups was done pseudo-randomly to achieve an equal number of left- and right-affected patients in each group. Pre- and post-treatment motor functions were monitored using a computerized movement analysis system (Zebris) and an established array of motor tests (e. g., Action Research Arm Test, Box & Block Test). Patients showed significant improvement after treatment with respect to speed, precision and smoothness of movements as shown by 3D movement analysis and clinical motor tests. Furthermore, compared to the control subjects, motor control in everyday activities improved significantly. In conclusion, this innovative therapeutic strategy is an effective approach for the motor skill neurorehabilitation of stroke patients.

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Correspondence to S. Schneider.

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Schneider, S., Schönle, P.W., Altenmüller, E. et al. Using musical instruments to improve motor skill recovery following a stroke. J Neurol 254, 1339–1346 (2007).

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Key words

  • auditory–sensorimotor integration
  • plasticity
  • neurorehabilitation
  • stroke
  • music therapy