can music do harm?

Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation and Gait Training in Traumatic Brain Injury: A pilot study.

In response to a perceived research gap on the use of a Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) technique with traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients, researchers from Craig Hospital in Colorado studied the impacts of Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS) on individuals who had experienced a moderate to severe TBI. In a review of related literature, authors summarized the connection between the brain’s motor and auditory cortices and described how the patterned nature of rhythm can make it an effective treatment tool for motor needs. RAS is a treatment protocol developed upon these premises and involves the assessment and auditory cueing of gait (Thaut & Hoemburg, 2014). 10 individuals identified as having high fall risk, with needs in speed and step symmetry, received RAS treatment each day over a two-week period. Participants engaged in completion of comprehensive assessment measures, listening to preferred music with an added click beat matching their baseline cadence, walking to preferred music with an added click beat matching their cadence, and walking to preferred music with an added click beat at a rate 5% faster than their baseline cadence. Results from Thompson et al. (2021) showed 5/10 participants did not have high fall risk by the end of the study and 9/10 participants demonstrated overall gait improvement by the end of the study. Outcomes further revealed maintenance of gait improvements following a one-week period, generalization to a nonmusical setting, and participant reported enjoyment of the interventions. Thompson et al. (2021) emphasize the preliminary nature of this study and recommend ongoing research to further understand the impacts of RAS on gait in individuals with TBI. 


Thaut, M.H., & Hoemburg, V. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of neurologic music therapy. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, S., Hays, K., Weintraub, A., Ketchum, J. M., & Kowalski, R. (2021). Rhythmic auditory stimulation and gait training in traumatic brain injury: A pilot study. Journal of Music Therapy, 58(1), 70-94.