Epilepsy Ontario funds Canada’s First Music Therapy Clinical Research Study for People with Epilepsy

TORONTO March 23, 2017 – With Purple Day almost upon us, Epilepsy Ontario is pleased to announce the beginning of the first research clinical study in Canada to look at the role music therapy can play in seizure reduction.

Thanks to the generous support of the William Donald Willis Fund, Epilepsy Ontario has entered into a formal partnership with the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital to conduct a two-year clinical research study advancing the work of previous international studies that have found an intriguing link between music – specifically Mozart’s K 448 Sonata – and seizure reduction in individuals with intractable Epilepsy.

“As we know, up to 30 per cent of people with Epilepsy do not benefit from drug interventions,” says Epilepsy Ontario Executive Director Paul Raymond. “We felt it was important to fund research into alternative therapies that could potentially be beneficial to all people with Epilepsy.”

Epilepsy neurosurgeon Dr. Taufik Valiante and post-doctoral fellow Marjan Rafiiee in collaboration with members of the Epilepsy Program at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, lead the Krembil Research Institute study to compare the seizure profiles of individuals with Epilepsy listening to Mozart’s K 448  versus the time that they listen to a control music which is a “scrambled” version of the sonata.

Previous Epilepsy music therapy studies using K 448 have found evidence of seizure reduction by as much as 24 per cent, which compares favorably to some of the most commonly used drug interventions.

“This is a bit of a golden age for research into the brain,” says. Dr. Valiante. “The technological tools to study the human brain are ever increasing in sophistication and accessibility.  These tools are allowing the mystery of the human brain’s relationship with music to be explored in a wide variety of clinical settings, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression.”

In fact, it was an introduction to research into music therapy applications for motor movement rehabilitation in individuals with Parkinson’s disease that piqued Dr. Rafiee’s interest in Epilepsy music therapy.

“It was shocking to me to be honest,” says. Dr. Rafiee. “I started looking at some of the literature and was looking at the numbers, seeing some patients even becoming seizure-free.  I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this before”.

For former Epilepsy Ontario board member Sean O’Malley, who first pitched the idea of funding a music therapy trial, the inspiration was his daughter Rhiannon, who has drug-resistant Epilepsy.

“Ever since she was little, she would crave music at all times, in a way that I came to feel was her own form of self-medication,” says   O’Malley. “One of her favourite things to do in the world is to go for an hour-long drive with me around the lake we live on and listen to our favourite music. “No matter how hard a day she seems to be having with seizures, that hour always feel like an oasis of relative calm in her brain.”

Epilepsy Ontario is dedicated to promoting independence and optimal quality of life for children and adults living with seizure disorders. Through a network of local agencies, contacts and associates across the province, Epilepsy Ontario reaches out to people with epilepsy and their loved ones. We do this by providing: client services including counselling and referrals, information, education and advocacy services.

For media inquiries please contact:

Epilepsy Ontario Executive Director Paul Raymond


[email protected]