Musical therapy makes its debut at SKMC

Hospital patients find a new therapy as live piano recital served as an original form of treatment at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

ABU DHABI // More than 50 patients at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City received a new kind of therapy yesterday: musical medicine. Assembled in the main lobby of the hospital, the patients heard a live piano recital which, according to specialist neurologists, can improve brain function, affect energy levels and even reduce pain.

The recital was hosted by Dr Kamal Chemali, the director of music and medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, an American institution which uses complementary therapies such as art and music to aid a patient's recovery. The Cleveland Clinic also manages Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Several types of music were played, he said, to reach the most patients. "There is slow rhythms to calm the heart rate and high-tempo beats to trigger the motor area in the brain which stimulates movement; this can be great for patients with difficulties in that area.

"It is difficult to measure individual effects on each patient, but feedback we have had from other concerts like this has shown even one hour of live music can raise energy levels and reduce stress by 60 to 80 per cent for as long as a week." The hour-long performance by Prisca Benoit, from Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique du Paris, was a repertoire of music by Brahms, Beethoven and the Spanish composer Albéniz.

Neurological studies have shown that music can have many physical benefits. By placing sensors on the skin, Dr Chemali and other doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have been able to demonstrate a physical reaction even when a patient does not like the music. Although it is a new form of treatment, doctors believe musical medicine will be useful here. "The UAE and Abu Dhabi ,in particular, seem to have placed such an important investment on the arts that our work is really relevant here," said Dr Neil Cherian, a neurologist from the Cleveland Clinic who is here for a medical forum as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.