Singing helps stroke victims regain speech

08:43, February 22, 2010      

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US scientists have restored speech to stroke victims by getting them to sing words instead of speaking them, a leading neurologist said.

Gottfried Schlaug, an associate professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, showed a video of a patient with a stroke lesion on the left side of the brain who was asked to recite the words of a birthday song.

The patient could not comply, and merely repeated the letters N and O.
But when Schlaug asked him to sing the song while someone held the patient's left hand and tapped it rhythmically, the words "happy birth-day to you" came out clear as day.

Another patient was taught to say, "I am thirsty" by singing, while another who suffered a large lesion on the left side of the brain and had tried various, ultimately unsuccessful therapies for several years to try to regain the power of speech was taught to say his address.

Images of the brains of patients with stroke lesions on the left side of the brain – which is typically used more for speech – show "functional and structural changes" on the right side of the brain after they have undergone this form of therapy through song, called Music Intonation Therapy (MIT).

Schlaug said music helps parts of the brain that usually do not engage with each other when a person speaks, to do so.

"Music-making is a multisensory experience that simultaneously activates several systems in the brain and links and loops them together." he said.
Tapping the patient's hand gently on the table "might serve as a pacemaker for the motor articulatory system in the brain," Schlaug said.

In the US, MIT could potentially help up to 70,000 nonverbal stroke victims regain the ability to speak, according to the neurologist.

Source: AFP
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