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The rhythm of recovery: brain injury and the power of music

Music serves many purposes. It is a source of entertainment, happiness, community, learning and, most importantly for people recovering from brain injury, music stimulates the mind. As an organization that has supported individuals living with brain injury since 1986, we, at BrainTrust Canada, have seen firsthand the amazing, intricate relationship between music and the brain.

“I have worked with many clients throughout the years who have sustained life-changing injuries to their brain,” explains BrainTrust Executive Director, Amanda McFarlane. “Despite initially losing and needing to re-learn abilities like walking and talking, some brain injury survivors retain incredible musical abilities.”

Many brain areas are involved in the reception and production of music and thus engage many areas of cognition, including acoustic analysis, information processing, sensory-motor integration, learning, memory, decision-making, emotion, and creativity.

<who>Photo Credit: James Alton Films</who>

Music also has powerful applications as a therapeutic approach to brain injury rehabilitation. Therapies involving dance and playing instruments help individuals with brain injury gain mobility, strength, and endurance as well as improve coordination of movement.

Singing and vocalizing can improve both verbal and non-verbal communication and help brain injury survivors improve vocal control and speech production. Imitating beats and rhythm or remembering the sequence of a song can aid in the rehabilitation of cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, and executive functioning.

And what’s most remarkable is that abilities learned and improved upon during music therapy can extend to everyday situations, such as communicating with family and remembering items to shop for at the grocery store, through the power of neuroplasticity.

In addition, a common struggle after brain injury is finding activities that give the individual purpose and meaning. Post-brain injury, many people are not able to return to work or school or fill life roles as they used to (e.g., caregiver). At BrainTrust, one of the most important things we do is give clients the resources to set and work towards meaningful goals after brain injury, through programs such as 1:1 Life Skills Support, Group Programs, and Clinical Counseling.

As one Clinical Counselling client explains, “Art has always been all over the place in my life, but it’s been suppressed.” After attending therapy and finding stability and purpose, this client has re-discovered a love for playing the guitar and painting.

BrainTrust Canada is excited to welcome Guy Few, an acclaimed trumpet virtuoso and brain injury survivor, who is a guest soloist with the Okanagan Symphony this weekend. Guy has had a successful career as a musician after two brain surgeries for Cavernous Hemangioma which resulted in memory loss and other complications.

He will be offering words of hope and inspiration to other brain injury survivors at BrainTrust Canada. Guy Few is performing with the Okanagan Symphony on November 18, 19, and 20 in Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

<who>Photo credit: Okanagan Symphony Orchestra</who>

About the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra: The OSO has had the privilege of sharing live music experiences with residents and visitors to the Okanagan for over 60 years. As the third largest professional orchestra in BC, the OSO, through the leadership of Music Director Rosemary Thomson, has produced a highly professional ensemble.

In addition to the OSO’s many live public concerts, our community engagement programs bring unique music and learning experiences to preschoolers and their families, students and schools, and to youth through our flagship Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO).

About BrainTrust Canada: BrainTrust Canada is a non-profit organization that provides brain injury education, advocacy, and rehabilitation support services in the North and Central Okanagan. Their mission is to bring the issue of brain injury to the forefront, reduce preventable brain injuries, and maximize the potential of those who have been affected by brain injury through programs and advocacy.

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