A Calgary medical centre, funded entirely through charitable donations, is helping patients who suffer from a myriad of neurological disorders through the power of music.

Synaptic has been in business for the past five years to help address a need in the community.

“It was born out of a need in our community to provide long term rehabilitation for people with different neurological conditions,” says Yuen Nguyen, Synaptic’s executive director.

Nguyen says the centre engages patients who suffer from spinal cord injuries and disorders such as MS, Parkinson’s, strokes and other ailments with high intensity exercises.

One of the therapies that Synaptic provides is music therapy and Nguyen says there is real scientific theory behind the use of the media to provide real results.

“Music therapy incorporates research and ideas that the brain can reorganize and re-map when it is following beats and music. So for people with Parkinson’s or MS, when there are tremors or discoordination in their movement, music can help reorganize and re-map that.”

She says the theory is that the brain would then be able to eventually circumvent the disorder altogether.

Elle McAndrews, a music therapist with Synaptic, says that the therapy, performed in group sessions where patients can connect with their peers, sets out a number of goals for patients.

“We’re working with anything from behaviours to physical goals, emotional goals, educational goals, spiritual goals, that sort of thing,” she says. “We are working on range of motion, things that we can use in activities of daily living; walking, stepping, rotating the trunk.”

McAndrews says that music is a huge help for people with afflictions that affect their normal body rhythms and it also helps as a motivator for people involved in the therapies.

“We all are motivated in some way by music, so incorporating music into the activities really allows the music to be a motivation in and of itself to perform those activities.”

She adds that there is a bit more to music therapy than people realize.

“Yes, you’re going to feel good when you’re listening to your favorite music, but there’s a little bit more to it than that. We go into greater depth in music therapy. Music is the motivator, but we are really targeting specific goals and have a very specific intention in the way that we are using that music.”

The sessions have been a big help to participants like Dale Ohlson, who suffers from a disorder called responsive dystonia.

The illness has left Ohlson unable to walk forwards easily, so the music therapy helps him put a rhythm in place to help him measure his movements.

“It was unique. It was awesome to do because we are always in tune with the rhythm and putting instruments to that rhythm helps you a lot.”

Other participants, like John Ogden, who suffers from a neurological disorder called myasthenia gravis, also found a lot of benefits with the music therapy.

“It’s actually quite positive. I think it would help. It helps with movements. It’s fun to do it with the music too. It’s not boring and it adds some life to it. I will probably join the weekly session,” he says. “If you just sit there and do it yourself, it gets kind of tiring.”

Nguyen says Synaptic functions under a cost recovery model, so clients are charged as little as possible for access to the therapies.

“Even at that though, there is a financial barrier for people that come to us, so Synaptic has been able to rely on the generosity of Calgary. We have not had any government funding.”

The centre will be holding an open house on Thursday to provide an opportunity for people to come in and experience what it has to offer.

Information on the open house and how to donate to Synaptic is available on its website.