Can Music Help ADHD Symptoms?

5% of the world’s population has Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Music is a complex cognitive challenge that apparently has not provided us an evolutionary advantage. However, music provides us great pleasure, and brain activation is associated with plenty of complex demands.

It is a commonly accepted statement that children with ADHD need reduced environmental distraction and silence to perform better. On the contrary, some studies indicate that listening to music before or during a task could improve attentional performance better than silence.  In the case of children with neurotypical development, they also improved their performance with background music except in reading comprehension tasks, where calm music distracted them, while people with ADHD improved their performance.  Regarding tasks, results suggest that in the case of ADHD, external stimulation with music can help adjust arousal to an optimal level in monotonous tasks. However, when the task is complex, external stimulation may worsen performance. In hard tasks, some studies suggest that white noise may be effective in specific tasks like speech recognition, reading, writing speed, and working memory

Despite its efficacy, multimodal treatment of ADHD (eg, pharmacological, psychological, and psychoeducational modes) is insufficient to fully correct the disorder and ADHD persists in adulthood in around 65% of cases.

Methods based on music therapy, such as musical performance or listening to music, have reportedly reduced symptoms in Parkinson disease , brain damage, schizophrenia, substance use, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.

Music therapy is mainly applied in two possible modalities:

  1.  “active” music therapy when the participant performs music using a musical instrument or voice and
  2.  “passive” music therapy when the participant listens to music performed by others. Listening to and practicing music activates both hemispheres in sensory, motor, cognitive, language, and emotional areas.


Musicians’ brains have better sensorimotor connectivity, greater frequency coherence, and major volume in the basal ganglia, corpus callosum, and cerebellum. Music also facilitates changes in our mood and emotional intensity, arousal, and attention. Furthermore, dopamine, the critical neurotransmitter associated with ADHD, modulates reward circuits associated with music, providing pleasure responses similar to sex, food, or money.

Researchers in Spain published a new paper in May 2023 analyzing evidence that music is beneficial in reducing the symptomatology of ADHD.

The study’s finding of the effects of active and passive music therapy on people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are summarized:


Active music therapy

  • Hemispheric synchrony
  • Self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impulsivity


Passive music therapy

  • Arithmetic skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Drawing task (slow tempo)
  • Balance performance
  • Attention (but decreased when using binaural sounds)
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Motor activity (rock music)
  • Heart rate variability (relaxing music)
  • Arousal and mood (negative when using silence)


article, we delve into the existing research to explore whether music can help individuals with ADHD.

Researchers have begun investigating alternative approaches like music to support individuals with ADHD.  We delved further into the existing research to explore whether music can help individuals with ADHD, summarized below:


1. Enhanced Focus and Attention:

One of the hallmark challenges for individuals with ADHD is maintaining focus and attention. Research suggests that music, particularly certain types, may have a positive impact on attention and concentration. In a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy, researchers found that background music helped improve attention and concentration in children with ADHD during academic tasks. Similarly, another study revealed that classical music had a positive effect on attention and task performance in individuals with ADHD, potentially enhancing their ability to sustain attention.


2. Mood Regulation and Emotional Well-being:

Emotional dysregulation is another aspect often associated with ADHD. Music has long been recognized as a powerful tool for influencing emotions and promoting well-being. Listening to music can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are known to play a role in regulating mood. This effect may be particularly relevant for individuals with ADHD, as music can potentially help alleviate feelings of frustration, impulsivity, and restlessness commonly experienced by those with the condition.


3. Stress Reduction and Anxiety Management:

People with ADHD often struggle with high levels of stress and anxiety, which can further exacerbate their symptoms. Engaging with music, either by listening or actively participating, has shown promise in reducing stress and anxiety. Research suggests that music interventions, such as guided relaxation with music or playing musical instruments, can have a calming effect, promoting relaxation and reducing feelings of anxiety. By incorporating music into their daily routines, individuals with ADHD may find it helpful in managing their stress levels and improving overall well-being.


4. Cognitive Stimulation and Memory Enhancement:

Cognitive deficits, including working memory difficulties, are commonly associated with ADHD. Music has been shown to engage multiple brain regions, stimulating cognitive processes. Studies have indicated that musical training can enhance working memory and other executive functions in individuals with ADHD. Engaging in activities such as playing an instrument or participating in rhythmic exercises can provide cognitive stimulation and potentially strengthen cognitive skills crucial for managing ADHD symptoms.



While music should not be considered a standalone treatment for ADHD, emerging research suggests that it may offer valuable benefits as a complementary approach in managing symptoms. From improved focus and attention to mood regulation and stress reduction, music has the potential to positively influence various aspects of ADHD management. Integrating music into therapy sessions, educational settings, or daily routines may provide individuals with ADHD an additional tool to enhance their overall well-being and improve their quality of life. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind the effects of music on ADHD and to optimize its use as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.

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