Music Might Help Researchers Better Understand Epilepsy

Rear view of man holding and listening to headphones in cityPeople with epilepsy may process music differently than people without the neurological condition, an insight that might eventually provide new treatment options for people who experience frequent seizures.

The finding was the result of a study presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd convention. Epilepsy—the fourth most common neurological condition—affects about 150,000 Americans each year, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. The most common form of epilepsy originates in the temporal lobe—a part of the brain that helps process sensory input, emotions, language, and visual memories.

Different Brain Reactions to Music

Researchers recruited 21 participants with epilepsy. Each participant had sought treatment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s epilepsy monitoring unit between September 2012 and May 2014.

Each participant underwent a brain electroencephalogram (EEG) to record brainwave patterns while being exposed to various sounds. In the first portion of the trial, participants heard 10 minutes of silence. Next, each participant listened to either “My Favorite Things,” performed by John Coltrane, or Mozart’s Sonata in D Major, Andante Movement II (K448). Participants then heard a second 10-minute period of silence, followed by the second musical piece. The order of the musical pieces was random, so some participants heard Mozart first, while others listened to Coltrane.

All participants had much higher levels of brainwave activity when listening to music, but people with epilepsy were more likely to have brain activity that synchronized with the music, particularly in the temporal lobe. Music is processed in the auditory cortex, which inhabits the same region of the brain.

What Findings Could Mean for Future Treatment

Researchers are not yet sure why the brains of people with epilepsy tend to synchronize with music. However, because 80% of epilepsy cases originate in the temporal lobe, understanding the temporal lobe’s reaction to music might eventually help researchers better understand epilepsy.

The research team says it is unlikely that music would replace conventional epilepsy treatments, but it could eventually work in conjunction with traditional treatments to prevent seizures.


  1. Can music help people with epilepsy? (2015, August 9). Retrieved from
  2. Music and the brain: Can music help people with epilepsy? (2015, August). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
  3. Shafer, P.O., RN, MN. (2013, October). Epilepsy statistics. Retrieved from

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  • Stacey

    August 10th, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    This provides so much hope in those of us who live with the harmful health effects that epilepsy can leave on our lives. You don’t know how happy it makes me to think that one day, potentially, there could be answers to those questions that many of us struggle with daily.

  • Cecil

    August 12th, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    Cool! I knew that my epilepsy just makes me even more super special

  • Susanna

    August 13th, 2015 at 5:23 PM

    I do think that there is a lot of validity to studies like this, searching for new things that you may not have ever considered having any kind of relationship to one another- and then that could hold the key to a mystery that you have been seeking for a very long time. The truth is that there are a lot of things about this universe that we as humans just don’t know, but the possibilities to what we can discover and learn are endless.

  • Bruce

    August 14th, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    No one ever says anything negative about music right? So why is this usually the first thing to be cut when the schools are looking for ways to trim the budget? It seems like the things that are good for students, like the arts and physical education, are always the first to feel the knife. Now what kind of sense does that make, given that these are the things that are consistently touted as being so good for our students health and overall well being?

  • Collin

    August 16th, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    To think that there is something that most of us have exposure to on a daily basis that can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to have an even better outcome would just be amazing.

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