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Sing-sation!

The Power of Song for Stroke Victims

A form of music therapy may improve stroke victims' ability to speak

I can’t say I’m the next Pavarotti, but I enjoy belting out a good tune now and again.  Whether I’m in the car, around the house, in the shower, or listening to tunes on my iPod, singing has a very therapeutic effect on my psyche.

But according to a recent study performed by researchers from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, singing has a physically therapeutic effect as well.

Professors from Beth Israel and Harvard Medical School’s medical center revealed music’s profound effects by using a form of music therapy that’s worked wonders for people who’ve suffered brain damage.  It’s called Music Intonation Therapy, and researchers say that the therapy has enabled stroke victims to talk again after years of being rendered voiceless.

Researchers presented the effects of MIT at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  There, researchers showed a video presentation of a stroke victim going through speech therapy with both word therapy and singing therapy.

Right away, the assemblage of viewers were able to see the distinct difference in results when the researchers taught the stroke victim to sing the words to the song “Happy Birthday” rather than to say the words.

Researchers don’t know how or why MIT works so effectively, but they believe it has something to do with music’s ability to tap into regions of the brain that aren’t engaged when someone speaks or utters words.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the country behind heart disease and cancer.  It occurs when there’s an interruption of blood flow from the heart to the brain, typically due to a clot that’s formed inside a blood vessel.  How adversely someone is affected largely depends on the nature of the stroke, which portion of the brain it effects, and how early it is treated (classic examples include stroke victim and baseball writer Peter Gammons, who’s been able to continue his broadcasting and writing career unscathed, and stroke-victim and Rock and Roll legend Dick Clark, whose speech has been profoundly effected).

In addition to speech problems, a stroke that affects the left side of the brain may also cause memory loss, and paralysis on the right side of the body.

This study piggybacks on something I reported about in the fall of 2008 regarding exercise’s ability to improve stroke victims’ mobility.

Now, it bears mentioning that MIT does not lead to immediate results.  Researchers say it can take years before measurable improvements are made manifest.  Typically, Music Intonation Therapy is done five days a week for one and a half hours at a time.

For more information on the various forms of treatment for stroke victims and how to reduce further cardiovascular risk, please read about the power of isoflavones.  Please look at my section on keeping your blood pressure down as well, as hypertension is a significant risk factor for stroke.  Even better, pick up my book.

Sources:
newsmaxhealth.com
strokeassociation.org

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