Music can make people relax, happy… Besides, music can help stroke victims communicate! For the many stroke victims devastated by the loss of their ability to speak, music may be the key to unlock language.
The patients couldn’t speak anymore after a stroke to the left hemisphere of the brain. According to Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, patients who were taught to essentially sing their words improved their verbal abilities and maintained the improvement for up to a month after the end of the therapy. After the therapy, patients may continue to speak in a more ”sing-songy” way.
The theory behind the treatment is that there are separate brain networks associated with vocal output, with one more engaged with speech and the other with music. With certain types of stroke, fibers on the left side of the brain that are important to the interaction of the auditory and the motor system are disrupted. But if the brain could recruit the fibers from the right side, which are more engaged with music, then the system could adapt. Dr. Schlaug believes that the tapping of the left hand works to engage the auditory and motor systems.
The treatment, called melodic intonation therapy, was devised in the 1970s after clinicians observed that some patients who suffered strokes were no longer able to talk but could still sing. However, the therapy never really caught and its efficacy hasn’t been fully assessed, Dr. Schlaug said.