Listening to familiar music can help people who've lost consciousness due to brain damage.
The present research on effect of music was conducted on four people who were at different stages of consciousness; two in a state of coma, one in vegetative state and one in minimally conscious state. Researchers recorded brain activity of the participants while they listened to a list of names being played out. The list included the patient's name as well and it was preceded by either a song that the patient was familiar with or with musical noise, New Scientist reports
The experiment was repeated on 10 healthy volunteers. Researchers found that participants who listened to familiar music had better brain response when they heard their names than when they listened to musical noise. In volunteers, music did not have any effect on the brain's response when hearing the person's name.
Lead researcher Fabien Perrin says that familiar music "activates our autobiographical memory - so it could make it easier for the subsequent perception of another autobiographical stimulus such as your name." Perrin adds that there could be another reason that explains brain's activity while listening to music - "music enhances arousal or awareness, so maybe it temporarily increases consciousness and the discrimination of your name becomes easier," New Scientist reports.
There has been plenty of recent research on regaining consciousness but with conflicting results. One study suggests that voice messages, not music, help improve consciousness in people while another suggests that music might help people in the vegetative state.
"The familiar music might be causing an emotional arousal effect, and once [the patient with brain damage is] aroused, there is a small window that opens for increased communication and the brain responds to the name," said Carsten Finke, a neurologist at Charité Medical School in Berlin, Germany. Finke is not a part of the research team, reports New Scientist.
The study was presented at the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness meeting in Brighton, UK, last month.