Dr Shane Cassidy is a resident NMT in the National Rehab Hospital and the Royal Hospital Donnybrook.

Gibbstown doctor's musical therapy helping to treat life’s 'invisible disabilities'

A GIBBSTOWN doctor has told how music therapy can have life changing results for those suffering with neurological conditions.

Dr Shane Cassidy is a resident NMT in the National Rehab Hospital and the Royal Hospital Donnybrook.

With last month being 'Aphasia Awareness Month', Ireland's leading specialist in Neurological Music Therapy (NMT) is highlighting the power of Music Therapy in Treating the "invisible disability."

Despite an estimated 250,000 people in Ireland living with aphasia, awareness and understanding of this condition remains low.

Aphasia is a neurogenic language disorder that can significantly impact a person’s communication abilities. It is an invisible disability, and each person with aphasia has a unique set of strengths and challenges in their communication

Dr Cassidy explains how his work often leads to meaningful, life-changing results, harnessing the power of music, beat and rhythm to re-engage the brain where often nothing else can.

"Language is crucial for connecting with others and completing daily tasks, so aphasia can significantly affect relationships, social inclusion, access to information and services, life roles, occupations, and overall well-being. Consequently, aphasia can impact the quality of life for both the person living with the condition and their family and friends," he said.

The Gibbstown medical professional says that those who suffer with Aphasia will have varying symptoms.

"Some experience word-finding difficulties, while others struggle to understand or use spoken or written language," said Shane.

"It is important to note that aphasia doesn’t impact a person’s intelligence," he added.

"While people living with aphasia may have difficulty communicating their thoughts, they still think in the same way. The most common cause of aphasia is stroke. Other causes include acquired brain injury, brain infections or tumours. Primary progressive aphasia is a form of aphasia that is a subtype of frontotemporal dementia."

Often patients experience other communication difficulties alongside aphasia, such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech as the music therapist explains:

"Music therapy programs are customised to target each of our client’s unique goals and may incorporate one of several evidence-based techniques,” explains Dr. Shane Cassidy, founder of Neurolinks.

" Among others, instances of NMT techniques that may be used to support communication include Rhythmic Speech Cueing, in which rhythm is utilised to commence and maintain a particular rate of speech, and Oral Motor and Respiratory Exercises, in which music and rhythm is used to support articulation, diaphragmatic strength and the muscles involved in producing speech.

“Our work often involves collaborating and working closely with other members of interdisciplinary teams, including speech and language therapists. In this way, we can work together to ensure that our goals for music therapy are person-centred and support our clients in the most meaningful and impactful way.”

Family members and carers of individuals living with aphasia are frequently invited to sessions so neuroscience based music therapy tools and techniques can be shared that can facilitate and support their communication and interaction in a meaningful way as shane explains:.

"Our goal is to support individuals living with aphasia, their family members and carers as they adjust to their new reality and a new way of communicating."

Shane says he wanted to start a service to help those affected with neurological conditions, having seen the lack of services in the community.

"Music has been shown to increase our levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with many body functions such as movement and memory as well as feelings of pleasure, reward and motivation. Music has also been shown to decrease levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone," he said.

The specialist in Neurological Music Therapy grew up in Gibbstown with a keen interest in music, learning both piano and clarinet in Navan from an early age.

"After I left St Patrick's Classical School in Navan, I went on to study music in Trinity College, after which I did a H Dip in primary school teaching. Having worked as a teacher for six years, I left that to pursue a master's in music therapy at the University of Limerick. During this training, the clinical placements were a large component."

Two of Shane's placements were in the neuro rehabilitation setting, one in Royal Hospital or Neurodisability, Putney, London and the other at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) in Dublin.

"I became particularly interested in the neurological field, and could see the profound impact that music and all of its elements could have in supporting people living with neurological conditions," he said.

"Neurological music therapy is an evidence based neuroscientific approach to music therapy. This interest led me to pursue a PhD, which assessed the impact of Neurologic Music Therapy for adults and children living with an acquired brain injury."