Observing The Brain As Singing Helps Stroke Victims Regain Their Speech
Singing therapy for stroke patients is an established rehabilitation technique, but a new study combined music therapy with brain imaging, so researchers could actually see what goes on in the brain as patients learn to sing their words. These observations are improving the chance of success for speech impaired stroke patients.
Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US reported the findings of his study to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at its convention this past weekend. The trial is an ongoing clinical trial that shows how the brain responds to "melodic intonation therapy."
Most stroke patients experience damage to the left side of their brains, the side that controls speech, hearing, and movement on the right side of the body. Professor Schlaug's team observed that there is a "speech hole," on the right side of the brain which could function to control speech, but it seems to lack the "connections" afforded to the speech center on the left side.
A person's "singing center" is also located on the right side of the brain near the speech hole, but, once engaged, singing has the ability to activate many other parts of the brain, including cognitive, emotional, and physical functions and abilities. What the new study has shown is that, as patients are taught to add words to their melodies, the speech center in the right brain begins to to develop more connections. And if patients tapped out the rhythm of each syllable, it made their results even more effective.
"Music might be an alternative medium to engage parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged," said Professor Schlaug.
Dr Aniruddh Patel from the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, said of the findings: "People sometimes ask where in the brain music is processed and the answer is everywhere above the neck.... Music engages huge swathes of the brain - it's not just lighting up a spot in the auditory cortex."
References: BBC News, Center for Music Therapy