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Effects of Music Therapy on Huntington's Disease

This study has been completed.
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
OJ Sahler, University of Rochester Identifier:
First received: September 12, 2005
Last updated: August 19, 2011
Last verified: August 2011
The purpose of this study is primarily to assess the ability of a music therapy program to improve holistically the psychological, somatic, and social symptoms of patients with Huntington 's disease (HD). We hope to demonstrate the benefits of applying music therapy interventions to the management methods of HD, thus paving the way for the development of an effective music therapy program for individuals with HD.

Condition Intervention Phase
Huntington's Disease
Behavioral: Music Therapy
Phase 1

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Crossover Assignment
Masking: Open Label
Official Title: The Effects of Music Therapy on Depression, Chorea and Other Symptoms of Huntington's Disease

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by University of Rochester:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • To examine the feasibility and tolerability of a treatment program of MT for subjects with HD. [ Time Frame: End of Study ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • To determine if MT improves the mood and motor features of HD while improving quality of life. [ Time Frame: End of study ]

Enrollment: 11
Study Start Date: July 2004
Study Completion Date: June 2010
Primary Completion Date: December 2008 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: Music Therapy
Subject will participate in one, individual, half-hour long music therapy session every other week and one hour-long group music therapy session each month, for a period of three months.
Behavioral: Music Therapy

During individual Music Therapy sessions, subjects will participate in a variety of active music-making opportunities, including: playing musical instruments, singing, improvising, learning relaxation techniques, song writing, and/or lyric analysis. The activities for each session will be determined by both subject and therapist, and will be selected based on preference, emotional state, and desired goals for the day.

Group music therapy sessions will focus on improving socialization, depression, and group dynamics. In this setting, the Music Therapist will choose from the following interventions:

  • Group singing
  • Group drumming
  • Music assisted relaxation
  • Group song writing
  • Lyric analysis
  • Improvisation
  • Music with art
No Intervention: Standard Care
During the Standard Care time period, participants will continue to receive all of the medical care that they would normally receive for the treatment of Huntington's Disease, without the addition of music therapy services.

Detailed Description:


Background: Recent studies show that music therapy helps improve the symptomatic manifestations of Parkinson's Disease. Few studies have looked at music therapy as a treatment for the psychiatric, cognitive and motor symptoms of patients with Huntington's disease (HD).

Objective: To examine the feasibility and tolerability of a treatment program of music therapy for patients with Huntington's disease. Also, to determine if music therapy improves the mood and motor features of HD while improving quality of life.

Methods: Subjects with HD were recruited to participate in a six-week study that included one individual, half-hour music therapy session and one hour-long group session per week. The music therapy protocols were adapted from the Colorado State University's Neurological Music Therapy program and were targeted to HD symptoms including balance and posture, fine motor skills, memory and attention, vocalizations, and mood. In particular the protocols included Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS), Pattern Sensory Enhancement (PSE), and Therapeutic Instrumental Music Playing (TIMP). Primary outcome of tolerability was to be assessed by the subjects' adherence to the therapeutic protocol, attendance, and the results of an exit survey inquiring about their feelings toward the use of music therapy in HD. A secondary outcome of the study was the change in the Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale (UHDRS) score between baseline and study completion.

Results: Five subjects were recruited for study participation (one female and four males). Music therapy was found to be a tolerable and feasible treatment for patients with HD (100% adherence and 98% attendance). Exit surveys demonstrated strongly positive feelings towards the music therapy treatment program in four of the five subjects (one survey was completed with contradictory answers by the subject). While there was improvement in UHDRS scores for finger tapping, pronation/supination and the Luria, these changes did not achieve statistical significance with the small sample size in this study.

Conclusions: Music therapy was well tolerated among subjects with HD in this small study. Future studies are now being planned to look at the efficacy of this intervention in a larger population of HD subjects.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Diagnosis of HD
  • Over the age of 18
  • Patients must be ambulatory, use of a walker or human support is acceptable
  • Patients must be able to communicate their thoughts and feelings

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Anyone without the preceding characteristics
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00178360

United States, New York
University of Rochester Medical Center
Rochester, New York, United States, 14642
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Rochester
Principal Investigator: Frederick J Marshall, MD University of Rochester
  More Information

Additional Information:
Hyson C, Oliva R, LaDonna KA, Akwaa F, Richards J, Sahler OJ. "A Pilot Study of Music Therapy in Huntington' Disease". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2005; 76:A29, Abstract P010.

Responsible Party: OJ Sahler, Professor, University of Rochester Identifier: NCT00178360     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 10336
Study First Received: September 12, 2005
Last Updated: August 19, 2011

Keywords provided by University of Rochester:
Huntington's Disease, Music Therapy, quality of life

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Huntington Disease
Basal Ganglia Diseases
Brain Diseases
Central Nervous System Diseases
Nervous System Diseases
Movement Disorders
Heredodegenerative Disorders, Nervous System
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Genetic Diseases, Inborn
Cognition Disorders
Neurocognitive Disorders
Mental Disorders processed this record on April 24, 2017