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Singing can help stroke victims regain speech

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A trial led by Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, has presented astonishing results at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Patients with lesions to the left side of their brain, the language area of the brain, were reportedly able to relearn how to speak, by singing. According to nationalgeographic.com, Schlaug said patients who weren’t able to speak or only utter incoherent words after suffering strokes were able to clearly communicate their thoughts through intensive musical therapy. Essentially, stroke patients can be trained to say many phrases if they are taught to sing them first.

“The underdeveloped systems on the right side of the brain that respond to music became enhanced and changed structures,” Schlaug said at the press conference, before adding that these experiments prove that “music might be an alternative medium for engaging parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged.”

As put by the BBC, if a stroke patient’s speech center is disrupted or not functioning properly, the patient can just use their “singing center” instead.

At the conference, Schlaug presented a video of a patient who was asked to sing a birthday song, but was not able to, and  just kept repeated the letters N and O. When Schlaug, however, asked the patient to sing the song while someone was rhythmically tapping his left, he sang out the words “happy birthday to you” very clearly.

“This patient has meaningless utterances when we ask him to say the words but as soon as we asked him to sing, he was able to speak the words,” AFP quotes him as saying.

Other patients, who has been unable to speak for years, also showed improvement in speech, including being able to recite addresses and saying “I am thirsty”.

This therapy, called Music Intonation Therapy (MIT), can reportedly last 15 years, and involves daily sessions of 1.5 hours, five days a week, the AFP reports.

Celebrities who have suffered a stroke include Dick Clark.

Image: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1110695

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