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Brain damage

Damaged brains rewired by singing

Wednesday, July 07, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: brain damage, singing, health news


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(NaturalNews) The damaged brains of stroke patients can be "rewired" by singing, restoring the ability to speak to patients who have lost it, according to a study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

The findings came out of an ongoing trial in which stroke patients who have lost the ability to speak are treated with music therapy and taught to put words into simple melodies that they tap out with their hands. According to Schlaug, patients who had previously been unable to form any words at all became able to say "I am thirsty" after just one session.

Music has been used as a form of therapy for stroke patients since the discovery that damage to the brain's speech centers did not affect the ability to sing.

"People sometimes ask where in the brain music is processed and the answer is everywhere above the neck," said Aniruddh Patel from the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.

"Music engages huge swathes of the brain - it's not just lighting up a spot in the auditory cortex."

Speech and movement are mostly controlled from the left side of the brain, making them vulnerable in the case of damage to that side.

"But there's a sort of corresponding hole on the right side," Schlaug said.

"For some reason, it's not as endowed with these connections, so the left side is used much more in speech. If you damage the left side, the right side has trouble [filling that role]."

Putting words into song, however, appears to stimulate the formation of speech connections on the brain's right side.

"Music might be an alternative medium to engage parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged," lead researcher Gottfired Schlaug said.

Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8526699.stm.

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