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Melodic Therapy Helps Stroke & Brain Damage Victims Regain Language Capabilities

–Scientific Study First To Provide Insight For Future Research–
A dramatic new study from the University of Texas at San Antonio has uncovered a link between the music right side of the brain function and the left side of the brain that is used in language processing. The study also shows that music activates the cerebellum, challenging the 150-year-old hypothesis that this part of the brain (containing 70 percent of all brain cells) only controlled motor function. Both of these findings are significant because they could aid in the rehabilitation of stroke and other brain trauma patients who have lost speech capabilities. Melodic Intonation Therapy, where people sing what they want to say to improve fluency of speech, is a primary method of language rehabilitation. This new research provides insight into the function of the right brain areas, or music areas, which are recruited by the left side of the brain during therapy. Understanding the relationship between the two will give researchers the tools to develop other music-based speech rehabilitation therapies. It is estimated that 80,000 people develop a speech aphasic condition, or speech delivery problem, from strokes or other brain trauma each year.

Music therapies are in widespread use for a variety of behavioral and neurological problems. When positive effects are obtained on behavior, the brain mechanisms involved remain a mystery. Now comes evidence that a certain type of music therapy has behavioral benefits via measurable changes in brain function. Dr. Pascal Belin and his associates, working at the Service Hospitalier Frederic Joliot in Orsay and other institutions in France report that Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) promotes recovery from aphasia, a severe language disorder subsequent to stroke. MIT involves speaking in a type of musical manner, characterized by strong melodic (two notes, high and low) and temporal (two durations, long and short) components. Reporting in the December 1966 issue of Neurology(vol. 47, pgs. 1504-1511), Belin et al studied seven patients who had a lengthy absence of spontaneous recovery. They also evaluated the effects of MIT on the brain by measuring relative cerebral blood flow (CBF) and PET scanning during hearing and repetition of simple words and of "MIT-loaded" words. MIT produced recovery of speech capabilities. Of great interest, a critical region of the brain was activated by "MIT-loaded" words but not regular words. This is Broca's Area in the left hemisphere, known for over 100 years to be critically implicated in language and speech. The authors believe that the reactivation by MIT of Broca's Area was critical to recovery of speech. These findings provide enormous promise for both the treatment of aphasia and understanding the role of music in normal and abnormal brain function.
Source:  Foundation For Universal Music Literacy Research Materials

Positron emission tomography scans are revealing some surprising facts about our response to music. One would expect the right temporal lobe to be involved, but why does listening to music also stimulate the visual cortex? We are shown a man who has suffered so massive a stroke that he has completely lost language, but as the right hemisphere is unaffected he can still compose music and play a keyboard with his left hand. An autistic, brain damaged, blind young man of 21 cannot tie his own shoelaces, but he plays the piano brilliantly and has a remembered repertoire of over 7,000 songs.
The British Medical Journal, Anthony Storr, Oxford Health Authority


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