Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Words and Music, Together in the Brain

English: music therapy
English: music therapy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SAN DIEGO - Words and music are such natural partners that it seems obvious they go together. Now science is confirming that those abilities are linked in the brain, a finding that might even lead to better stroke treatments.

Studies have found overlap in the brain's processing of language and instrumental music, and new research suggests that intensive musical therapy may help improve speech in stroke patients, researchers said on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition, researchers said, music education can help children with developmental dyslexia or autism more accurately use speech.

People who have suffered a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and cannot speak can sometimes learn to communicate through singing, Mr Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School told the meeting. He showed a video of a patient who could only make meaningless sounds learning to say "I am thirsty," by singing the words. Another was able to sing "happy birthday".

As long as a century ago there were reports of stroke victims who couldn't talk but who could sing, he said. Now, they are doing trials to see if music can be used as a therapy. But, he cautioned, the work is geared toward people who have had a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and the therapy can take a long time.

Dr Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, reported that new studies show that musical training enhances the brain's ability to do other things.

For example, she said, the trained brain gets better at detecting patterns in sounds, so that musicians are better at picking out the voice of a friend in a noisy restaurant.

Dr Aniruddh D Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego said new studies show that music doesn't involve just hot spots in the brain, but large swaths on both sides of the brain. AP

From TODAY, Monday, 22-Feb-2010