The greatest challenge is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Music Therapy

Rep. Giffords' speech therapist, Maegan Morrow was interviewed on (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.)Radio this morning discussing her specialty and how effective music therapy is because music lights up the entire brain as seen on MRI and thereby "magically", or so it seemed to me,creates new pathways for reaching a person with a brain injury.

Later I found this article about an article:

Minnesota-based science writer Emily Sohn has written an intriguing article for Discovery News this week about how music-based therapies are being used to help people recover their speech after a traumatic brain injury.

Particularly promising, is a type of treatment called melodic intonation therapy, which uses melody and rhythm singing, to help people with certain types of aphasia (the medical term for an inability to communicate).

Giffords' therapy started with songs like "Happy Birthday," said Maegan Morrow, the Congresswoman's music therapist at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston.

Over time, Giffords learned to repeat ordinary phrases in a sing-songy voice. A song would gradually become a chant and finally a spoken phrase with the natural rhythm of speech. 

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this type of therapy helps people with aphasia.
Through music patients can reach into their stored knowledge about words and use songs to create new connections for speech, re-wiring the brain function in question.

One way to understand how this might work is to imagine that someone has challenged you to speak the lyrics of a song you haven't heard in 10 years. You probably can't do it. But if that song suddenly came on the radio, you'd likely be able to belt out every word.

"One theory is that music is able to short-circuit the damaged area through repetition," Rasar said. "It creates a new pathway in and people can then use that pathway out."

These are only theories, however. No one is absolutely sure that it’s the music therapy — rather than something else — that’s helping people regain some of their lost speech. 

"As much as we would like to say that music is a powerful medium, I think it's important for people to test it rigorously to try to really tease out what are the components that are contributing to the effects," says Catherine Wan, the neurologist at Harvard Medical School who is conducting the study. 

"Is it because they are seeing a therapist five times a day or it's a new therapy so they're more motivated or is the therapy itself that is important?"
This uncertain science is why I called it some kind of "magic" in my description

MinnPost - How music therapy is helping Rep. Giffords and others recover their ability to speak:
By Susan Perry | Published Thu, Nov 17 2011

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