The Los Angeles Times published an article on March 1, 2010, from which this quote is taken:
“Patients in the depths of Alzheimer’s and other dementias regularly respond to – and even play and sing – music from their distant past, without missing a word or a note. Nursing homes have seized upon that fact, exposing residents to the songs of their childhoods or courtship years to help reunite spouses in dancing and singing and try to coax dementia sufferers from their isolation.”
In addition to triggering helpful brain chemistry, music also triggers memory. Have you ever tried to forget the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or gotten a song stuck in your head for hours at a time? Monks chanting religious liturgies benefit from the same triggers. Music and memory are intertwined in our minds in a way we can use to re-connect with emotion, memory, and even physical movement.
Folks whose ability to walk has been compromised by Parkinson’s disease were able to walk immediately when accompanied by music with a strong beat. To quote Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, a Harvard University neurologist interviewed for the LA Times article:
“It works well and it works instantaneously, and it’s hard to think of any medication that has this effect.”
Did you know that stroke victims whose speech has been impaired (aphasia) are able to sing without difficulty? It’s called “melodic intonation therapy,” in case you were wondering, and it works by musically bypassing the speech centers of the brain. I’d like to suggest that it may actually build new connections in the brain — and neuroscience is starting to prove this point for me. If you know someone who’s having difficulty speaking, ask them to attempt to sing the same words and see what happens.
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