Stroke Patients Sing to Communicate


Summer 2010 Issue

Brain responds to melodic intonation therapy

Stroke Patients  Sing to Communicate

Stroke patients who have damaged the ‘speech center’ of their brain are now encouraged to use their ‘singing center’ instead. Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, led the ongoing clinical trial, which shows how the brain responds to “melodic intonation therapy” by combining therapy with brain imaging. They found that the left side of the brain is used much more in speech and is home to the connections between brain areas that control movement and hearing. Typically, when the left side of the brain is damaged, the right side is unable to perform the same duties effectively. Singing, however, is able to make the crucial connections needed for speech to form on the right side of the brain again. Schlaug, who uses singing in therapy sessions, says that patients are taught to put words to simple melodies, to tap out syllables with their hands, and learn phrases by combining each syllable with the note of a melody. Dr. Aniruddh Patel from the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego says that “music engaged huge swathes of the brain,” and that “the study is an example of the explosion in research into music and the brain.”

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This article appeared in the Summer 2010 ISSUE,

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