Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Zoology and Physiology

First Advisor

Meg Flanigan Skinner


Neurodegenerative diseases involve the gradual loss of neuronal functioning over time; such diseases include Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease. The cause of these disorders is often idiopathic and treatment options are limited. Certain progressions of these diseases may lead to Locked-in-Syndrome, where an individual is aware of their environment but unable to communicate due to paralysis. The impact from these disorders often leads to further comorbidities and an overall lower quality of life. This paper addresses scientific literature on the effects of music on the brain and how music therapy can be used to help those with neurodegenerative disorders. Several studies show strong evidence to support music therapy as a means for improving cognitive, behavioral, and emotional functioning, as well as providing comfort care for individuals with AD and PD. Furthermore, a new type of eye tracking technology has even allowed individuals with complete paralysis to compose and deliver a musical performance through accessing brainwaves and eye movements. This technology has allowed individuals to deepen their engagement with their environment, also potentially improving their emotional well-being. Finally, this research illuminates the possibilities for music therapy to become a standard means for supporting individuals with neurodegenerative disorders.