Singing Helps Stroke Patients


Don't be embarrassed about belting out Lady Gaga or Stevie Wonder tunes in the shower—it's good for your health. Singing strengthens vocal cords and neck and mouth muscles. And it turns out singing might help stroke patients communicate.

A presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science claimed that singing is good for the brain. Researchers discovered that teaching stroke patients to sing improves their brains—and restores their ability to communicate. For years, physicians have known that when stroke patients lose their ability to speak, they can still sing. But Gottfried Schlaug—a neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston—found that when doctors teach patients to communicate by singing their needs, their brains develop.

The left side of the brain controls speech and language. If a stroke causes lesions on this side, patients suffer from aphasia, or an inability to speak. Schlaug and his group had patients participate in 90-minute language therapy for 16 weeks. The patients sung basic sounds repeatedly. Then the researchers imaged their brains, noticing that the right side would compensate for the left side's deficiencies.

"Music, and music-making, is really a very special form of a tool or an intervention that can be used to treat neurological disorders," Schlaug told "There's rarely any other activity that could really activate or engage this many regions of the brain that is experienced as being a joyous activity."