Virtual Music Therapy: Lifting Brain Fog?


CINCINNATI, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Brain fog is a term that people use to describe problems with thinking, remembering, or focusing. It’s often a side effect of an illness like COVID, or medical treatment like chemotherapy for cancer. Scientists are studying the feasibility of treating brain fog with do-it-yourself music therapy, a downloadable app that could help clear the mind.

Music as medicine. It’s been used to calm anxious patients, but what about using music to improve brain function or cognition? Therapy that patients could do on their own.

“I wanted an app that could allow patients to express their musical ability,” detailed Soma Sengupta, M.D., Ph.D. a neuro-oncologist at University of Cincinnati.

(Read Full Interview)

Scientists at the University of Cincinnati developed Armcan Active Receptive Music for cancer patients. Researchers have designed the app for patients to use two ways. First, they can stream music to enjoy the music they love. The app also allows patients to actively participate by making their own music.

“In other words, to have musical turns where you could overlay genres and create your own music track,” Dr. Sengupta told Ivanhoe.

Patients will be assigned to a group that either listens to the music or creates the music. They’ll do that activity for 15 minutes every day.

“These technologies are sort of in a way helping the rewiring and exercising areas of the brain that normally wouldn’t do it,” explained Dr. Sengupta.

The researchers have begun randomized trials with breast cancer survivors experiencing brain fog. The team will evaluate patients using surveys and MRI scans at six, 12, and 18 months to see how the brain is changing during the music therapy.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer and Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Brain fog is a term used to describe the feeling of being mentally sluggish and fuzzy. It makes you feel like you have a lack of mental clarity. It can also affect your ability to focus and make it difficult to recall things. A number of factors and health conditions can cause brain fog including lack of sleep, increased stress levels, depression, dementia, perimenopause, medication, hormonal conditions (such as thyroid disorders), chronic health conditions (such as multiple sclerosis), nutrient deficiencies (such as a vitamin B12 deficiency), and viral infections (such as COVID-19, SARS, and H1N1).


BRAIN FOG AND COVID: Researchers are still studying potential causes of brain fog after COVID-19. Several possible causes have been identified such as lack of oxygen caused by lung damage, inflammation affecting brain cells, an autoimmune disorder that is causing the immune system to attack healthy cells in the body, lack of blood flow caused by swelling of the small blood vessels in the brain, and invasion of infectious cells into the brain. “We know that different people have a wide range of long-term complications after COVID-19 infection, and a combination of factors may cause brain fog,” says Talya Fleming, MD, medical director, Post-COVID Rehabilitation Program at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. For some patients, post-COVID brain fog goes away in about three months, but for others it can last much longer.


MUSIC THERAPY GOES VIRTUAL: Music therapists often depend on face-to-face interactions with patients to achieve optimal outcomes. However, the global COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way music therapy is practiced. To allow music therapy to continue during the pandemic, music therapists have had to embrace alternative methods of conducting sessions, such as teletherapy, or virtual music therapy. This refers to the administering of music therapy remotely using online conferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype. The maintenance of music therapy sessions is of the utmost importance to patients, especially during such times of crisis, in which patients might experience heightened levels of stress due to a lack of future perspective and the unpredictability of this global pandemic. However, past studies examining the efficacy of teletherapy claim that this method has the potential to be as effective as traditional, real-life therapy, provided the online tools are used correctly.




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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Soma Sengupta, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, and Harold C. Schott Endowed Chair of Molecular Therapeutics

Read the entire Q&A