Case Studies:

How Chroma’s therapists change lives for people living with a Traumatic Brain Injury

The work of Chroma’s therapists is invaluable to the lives of those living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  Suffering a TBI can affect people in different ways. In some cases, the patient can be affected so severely that they are deemed to be in a vegetative state. This is the case for many patients referred to Chroma.

Ahmed was admitted to the prolonged disorders of consciousness unit for assessment at a private London hospital and was deemed to be in a vegetative state. He was unable to track objects, localise sounds or recognise objects or familiar voices.

This is an all too familiar case seen by therapists within Chroma and their work in the private healthcare sector.

Patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness are referred to Chroma who use the Music Assessment Tool for Awareness in Disorders of Consciousness (MATADOC) alongside other assessment methods (CRS-R and WHIM) which together can confirm a diagnosis.

The MATADOC is an important assessment tool as other screening tests may not be sensitive enough to pick up the subtle responses the patient exhibits during on-going therapy. This was the case with Ahmed.

The importance of the MATADOC for patients’ recovery journey

On arrival at the unit, Ahmed was referred to a sensory regulation music group to continue monitoring and to provide an enriched and sensory regulated environment to assist in minimising sensory deprivation and to provide structured input to maximise his ability to process information and respond to stimulation. Ahmed had also been diagnosed as cortically blind.

After several months of music therapy, Chroma felt that Ahmed was becoming more aware, although it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why they thought this. Based on his experiences in the sensory music group, Ahmed began to show signs he was becoming much more responsive, smiling at his name being sung and smiling when his favourite instrument was played.

Based on these findings, the therapist was able to redo the MATADOC to capture this change in behaviour as Ahmed was too physically impaired for the CRS-R to pick up these changes. The MATADOC uses a patient’s hearing to assess their level of awareness (vegetative, minimally conscious, and emerging from) and then for goal setting and treatment planning.

In this case, the MATADOC was sensitive enough to show the team that Ahmed was now responding at a minimally conscious state level and becoming more aware of himself and his environment.

As a result of these findings, Ahmed is no longer considered to be in a vegetative state and now receives individual music therapy input to continue working on his strengths highlighted in the MATADOC, as well as continuing to attend the group.

The importance of Neurologic Music Therapy

This outcome highlights the importance of Neurologic Music Therapy in patients who suffered a TBI and how those previously deemed to be in a vegetative state can still be reached, to improve their initial diagnosis.

Music is a language that can connect with the brain automatically. Where all other senses fail, hearing is the most acute following a brain injury. The automaticity of response allows healthy and unaffected parts of the brain to be recruited, allowing patients to re-learn functions such as movement or speech, via these new neural pathways.

Neurologic Music Therapy continues to display positive findings in patients who suffered a TBI.