How Music Therapy May Have Helped Lamar Odom

May 9th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Former NBA player Lamar Odom credits the music stylings of Kanye West with helping him recover from a coma last year — and science says he could be onto something.


On Sunday's episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," it was revealed that Odom, who spent four days in a coma after a reported drug overdose last year, spent considerable time with Kanye West during his hospitalization and used music as a form of therapy to help him recover.

"[Kanye] would go to the hospital and rap and sing," Kim Kardashian said. "I think Lamar started to get his function back and started to talk, once he got to listen to a lot of music."

Does music therapy really work?

While it's unclear how Kanye's songs could have played a role in helping Odom recover from his 12 strokes, there is a body of research supporting the idea that music can have a therapeutic function.

For coma patients in particular, integrating music into therapy may be a way to expedite recovery. A 2015 study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Science compared two sets of coma patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries — one group of 20 that received music therapy and a control group of 20 that didn't — and found that music can effectively help patients regain consciousness.

In an earlier study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, researchers wrote that "[i]mprovised singing appears to offer a number of possible benefits for working with coma patients in terms of human contact and promoting perceptual responses.”

“Human contact through singing, rather than speaking, also suggests that the fundamentals of human communication are music in form," the study author continued. "In this way we have the art of medicine within the science of medicine."

It helps to be emotionally connected to the music.

Lamar Odom

Music therapy is also more effective when coma patients have an emotional relationship to the music, which could explain why Odom reportedly had such a positive response to Kanye's music. Music therapist Lee Anna Rasar told NBC News that songs played for people in comas are most effective when "the music is something they knew before that already had meaning."

"Whenever memories have an emotional context to them, they tend to hold much more power in the brain and tend to be processed differently," Dr. Javier Provencio, the director of the Neurological Critical Care Unit at Cleveland Clinic, told NBC News.

RELATED: The Disturbing Detail in Lamar Odom's Overdose