Music listening to decrease intensity of agitated behaviour after severe acquired brain injury: An experimental multi-case study


  • Lena Aadal
  • Søren Vester Hald
  • Ulla Johanna Setterberg
  • Lars Ole Bonde



Agitated behavior following a traumatic brain injury is frequent, placing patients and staff at risk of injury. Such behaviors decrease rehabilitation outcomes. This case study explores staff-administered listening to preferred music as an intervention to reduce agitated behavior during sub-acute rehabilitation. The study included seven patients (6♂/1♀, aged 21-74 years) with agitated behaviour and suffering from severe acquired brain injury of different aetiologies. The intervention included 15 minutes of preferred music from a customized playlist created in collaboration between a relative, a music therapist and the staff at the rehabilitation clinic. Agitated Behavior Scale (ABS)-scores, blood pressure and heart rate measurements were obtained pre and post interventions. Two tailed t-test and visual analyses were conducted. Results suggest that listening to personalized playlists of preferred music with a supportive intensity profile may reduce the intensity of agitated behavior following an acquired brain injury in the sub-acute phase. Furthermore, the music listening intervention may have contributed to reduced pulse. Due to the small sample size and few measurements, further research to support the hypothesis is recommended. However, since music listening is an easily administered low-cost intervention with no obvious side-effects, it can be considered as a supplement to usual treatment.



Keywords: Acquired brain injury, neuro-rehabilitation, agitated behaviour,

                    music therapy, non-pharmaceutical


Author Biographies

Lena Aadal

RN, Ph.d. Head of clinical nursing research,

Assistant professor, Hammel Neurorehabilitation and

Research Centre, Department of Clinical medicine, Aarhus


Søren Vester Hald

Music therapist, PhD Aalborg

municipality, The Region of northern Jutland and Aalborg



Ulla Johanna Setterberg

Music Therapy and Psychology, MA Neurocenter Østerskoven and external lecturer, Aalborg University

Lars Ole Bonde

Professor (retired), PhD, music therapist DMTF, clinical supervisor. Aalborg University, Dept. of communication and psychology/Center for Research in Music and Health, The Norwegian Academy of Music.





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