Musical skills help stroke patients

WHEN the words are gone, sometimes only music remains.

That’s the experience of researchers who have found that when stroke victims lose the ability to speak  they can often still sing.

Bernadette Matthias, the wife of University of Newcastle Chamber Choir conductor Philip Matthias, is studying the impact  on stroke patients of singing in a choir.

Anecdotal experience has shown that when patients sing in a choir it improves their overall mood and contributes to their rehabilitation, particularly their speech.

Mrs Matthias is looking at the impact of singing on well-being, mood, quality of life, social participation and speech on stroke patients in her BrainWaves choir.

The doctorate student, an award-winning uni choir member, said music was largely controlled in the right side of the brain and speech in the left, so when patients had a stroke on the left side they still had singing skills.

‘‘Music is so primitive; people made beats and rhythms a long time before they could speak,’’ she said.

‘‘It is one of the first things to enter the brain and one of the last things to leave.

‘‘It’s quite spread out across the brain and it seems to wake up a lot more parts of the brain.’’

Mrs Matthias has already seen singers progress.

‘‘Hearing your own voice after not hearing it for a long time would be very powerful,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s an emotional journey for them.’’

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