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Active Music Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease: An Integrative Method for Motor and Emotional Rehabilitation

Pacchetti, Claudio MD; Mancini, Francesca MD; Aglieri, Roberto; Fundarò, Cira MD; Martignoni, Emilia MD; Nappi, Giuseppe MD


Background Modern management of Parkinson’s disease (PD) aims to obtain symptom control, to reduce clinical disability, and to improve quality of life. Music acts as a specific stimulus to obtain motor and emotional responses by combining movement and stimulation of different sensory pathways. We explored the efficacy of active music therapy (MT) on motor and emotional functions in patients with PD.

Methods This prospective, randomized, controlled, single-blinded study lasted 3 months. It consisted of weekly sessions of MT and physical therapy (PT). Thirty-two patients with PD, all stable responders to levodopa and in Hoehn and Yahr stage 2 or 3, were randomly assigned to two groups of 16 patients each. We assessed severity of PD with the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, emotional functions with the Happiness Measure, and quality of life using the Parkinson’s Disease Quality of Life Questionnaire. MT sessions consisted of choral singing, voice exercise, rhythmic and free body movements, and active music involving collective invention. PT sessions included a series of passive stretching exercises, specific motor tasks, and strategies to improve balance and gait.

Results MT had a significant overall effect on bradykinesia as measured by the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (

p < .034). Post–MT session findings were consistent with motor improvement, especially in bradykinesia items (p < .0001). Over time, changes on the Happiness Measure confirmed a beneficial effect of MT on emotional functions (p < .0001). Improvements in activities of daily living and in quality of life were also documented in the MT group (p < .0001). PT improved rigidity (p < .0001).

Conclusions MT is effective on motor, affective, and behavioral functions. We propose active MT as a new method for inclusion in PD rehabilitation programs.

From the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Centre, Istituto di Ricerca e Cura a Carattere Scientifico C. Mondino, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.

Received for publication December 3, 1998;

revision received September 20, 1999.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. C. Pacchetti, Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Centre, IRCCS C. Mondino, University of Pavia, Via Palestro 3, 27100 Pavia, Italy. Email:

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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