Singing therapy for stroke patients can help with aphasia recovery – even when your speech has been completely compromised. Here’s how it works.
When a stroke occurs on the left side of the brain, difficulty with speech (or aphasia) is a common side effect as the left side of the brain is responsible for speech and language. For this reason, a left hemisphere stroke can impair your ability to speak, read, listen, and write. So when all of these abilities are compromised, singing can serve as a viable solution.
Singing therapy works for left-hemisphere stroke survivors because singing is actually a function of the right brain. Survivors who find themselves unable to speak might be surprised to find that they can sing their words instead. During singing therapy (or melodic intonation therapy), the singing part of your brain can be retrained to help you speak.
You’ll start off singing sentences, and over time you’ll regain the ability to say those sentences normally again.
The process starts slowly, however, as your singing right brain isn’t as fast as your left-brained language center. However, with diligent practice, you can actually grow the nerve fibers in the singing center of your right brain. Here’s an interesting study on this finding:
A stroke survivor named Laurel experienced a massive a left-hemisphere stroke when she was 11 that left her speechless. During her recovery, she started speech therapy through a study conducted by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where they were able to compare Laurel’s brain to her twin sister’s brain. During singing therapy, brain scans showed that the nerve fibers in Laurels’ right-sided singing center actually grew compared to the corresponding region in her twin sister’s brain. This phenomenon truly speaks (literally) for the brain’s amazing ability to adapt and heal itself after injury.
Another heart-warming success story of singing therapy is about a patient named J.M. who experienced a large stroke on the left side of his brain when he was 57. After 4 years of speech therapy, he still couldn’t talk and was only able to muster unclear sounds. Then, after 57 singing therapy sessions, he could fluently recite his address when asked. Wow!
These are 2 success stories of the many that exists, and they certainly drive the point of how effective and life-changing singing therapy can be.
Have you tried singing therapy? How did it work for you?