I first encountered music therapy as a cure for epilepsy in Annabel Stehli’s edited collection of autism recovery stories, Sound of Falling Snow (2004). In the Foreword Dr. Jeff Bradstreet writes, “Music has even been documented to stop status epilepticus, the worst form of epilepsy” (p. x). The last time I told someone that music is a treatment for epilepsy (a couple of weeks ago) she replied, “I have heard about that, but did not realize music changes mental illness, too.” Evidently, the news is spreading with exponential speed thanks to the Internet. Since our 31-year-old’s stroke last summer I have been far too busy to follow all the leads on growing applications of music therapy, but I theorized about most of them in 2008 when I was doing my primary research and writing. Since then, psychiatrist Norman Doidge has written about the application of the Tomatis Method for healing autism, dyslexia, and suicidal depression (The Brain’s Way of Healing, 2015).
As a side effect of his “bone flap” surgery six months after his stroke, our youngest son experienced a seizure. His partner panicked and called an ambulance; at the hospital he was loaded with an anti-seizure drug. When I read up on its side effects I knew it would damage his ears. And I already knew about the epilepsy-ear connection cited above. Two weeks later, I happened to be with him when he had a second seizure. He had taken himself off the medication with no input from me. He felt it was going to cause another stroke. He had just finished smoking a cigarette when the seizure came; I have long distrusted cigarettes for the effect they have on the middle ear via the Eustachian tubes. I did not call an ambulance. The next day I took him to our family doctor, who thought a “wait and see” approach would be OK. He had personal experience with seizures much more severe in a family member. Two days after this seizure, his partner and I began to notice dramatic changes in his progress. He had more energy, better co-ordination, more will power, clearer speech, and other signs that his cerebral integration was faster. However, he also was more emotional, a sign that his left-brain dominance — or the former absence of left-brain integration to which he had adapted — had been disturbed. On balance, the signs were good and he recouped his left-dominance quickly. Four months later (last week) his smoking had become a real issue and he vowed to quit. But the next day he had a short seizure. It reduced his ability to quit smoking (“will power” is strength of left-brain dominance), but it certainly motivated him more strongly to quit. Again, we noticed a couple of days later that it dramatically improved his cerebral integration. His speech especially improved.
I think a seizure occurs because the right ear (or both) has a weak muscle. Sound in the environment that a normal ear handles with ease overwhelms the epileptic’s ear(s) so the brain is flooded with sound energy. It is precisely the same situation that occurs in psychosis (schizophrenia and autism) but it is extremely brief by comparison. Perhaps because the frequency deficits are a little different.
I wonder what would happen if we substituted music therapy for drugs in epilepsy? Daniel was very seriously harmed by drugs prescribed for his schizophrenia. While a minuscule amount sometimes was helpful, the same tiny amount could also cause severe psychosis. He was given almost 100 times the amount of drug that I eventually found (sometimes) useful to control his behavior. Dan recovered from the recent episode much faster than in 2008 and he recovered with no medication whatsoever. In both previous healings he did not achieve left-brain dominance until his extremely low dose of Risperdal was completely withdrawn. There is a tremendous amount of evidence that those “psychoactive” drugs, including tranquilizers and SSRIs, harm the ears.