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AAC Awareness

Music as Medicine

“…silence is full of music” – Marcel Marceau, legendary French mime

music graphicGabrielle Giffords, former member of the US House of Representatives, lost the ability to talk as the result of injuries sustained in an attempt on her life in January 2011. The bullet caused severe damage to the speech centre in her left brain. She has regained some speech, though she readily admits to frustration in trying to find the right words. Still, her progress has been remarkable in light of the extent of her injuries.

Would you be surprised to learn that music has played a significant role in Giffords’s recovery? Melodic intonation therapy (MIT) is used by therapists and speech-language pathologists to help create new speech pathways in the brain that will circumvent damaged areas. One theory is that music, processed through the right side of the brain, can retrain the left side, which controls language and speech.

Finnish researchers conducted a study between 2004 and 2006 that measured the cognitive recoveries of 60 stroke survivors who listened to music, audio books or nothing at all while undergoing routine therapy. When compared to the groups that listened to audiobooks or nothing at all, patients in the group that listened to music for a few hours a day experienced a much faster recovery of their verbal skills.

Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Knopf Canada, 2007) talks about aphasia and music therapy, and tells the story of a patient who experienced the benefits:

Want to help out? Support Music Heals, a new not-for-profit organization that raises awareness of the healing powers of music and helps fundraise for music therapy and related services across Canada.

Postscript: Dr. Galina Mindlin, neuropsychiatrist and co-author of Your Playlist Can Change Your Life (Sourcebooks, 2012), expounds music’s positive effects on the brain and how creating playlists of specific songs and listening to them can benefit your overall health and productivity. What more encouragement do we need to pop in the earbuds and get moving?

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