Fashion (Canada) - - HEALTH THERAPY -

Mu­sic ther­apy can be used to help peo­ple re­ha­bil­i­tate af­ter a brain in­jury or stroke or to as­sist those with cere­bral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and Parkin­son’s disease. For more than 20 years, Dr. Michael H. Thaut, direc­tor of Mu­sic and Health Science Re­search Col­lab­o­ra­tory MaHRC at the Univer­sity of Toronto and Cana­dian re­search chair tier I, has been re­search­ing and de­vel­op­ing Neu­ro­logic Mu­sic Ther­apy with his team. This ther­apy uses tech­niques backed by science to treat the brain with mu­sic and rhythm.

Thaut, who is a for­mer pro­fes­sional vi­o­lin­ist, de­vel­oped his Rhyth­mic Au­di­tory Stim­u­la­tion tech­nique to help stroke sur­vivors and pa­tients with Parkin­son’s disease in­crease their walk­ing speed and as­sist them with their com­pro­mised gait by us­ing mu­sic with a rhyth­mic beat. The ef­fects were im­me­di­ate and quite dra­matic. “As soon as the au­di­tory rhythm en­ters the brain, it cre­ates a sort of tem­plate that en­trains or syn­chro­nizes the move­ment,” says Thaut.

He also con­ducts his re­search us­ing another tech­nique called Melodic In­to­na­tion Ther­apy (MIT), which treats stroke sur­vivors who have been left with lit­tle or no speech. She­lia Lee, a Van­cou­ver-based cer­ti­fied mu­sic ther­a­pist, has re­ceived train­ing to use MIT with her pa­tients. “I had a client who de­vel­oped ex­pres­sive apha­sia af­ter experiencing a stroke in the left hemi­sphere of his brain,” she says. “He was able to re­ceive in­for­ma­tion and un­der­stand what others were say­ing but had dif­fi­culty speak­ing and form­ing co­her­ent sen­tences.” Though he of­ten fell asleep dur­ing group mu­sic ther­apy ses­sions (due to fa­tigue from his brain in­jury), Lee says he would wake up when­ever the group sang Jour­ney’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

“He would lift his head, open his eyes and sing ev­ery word loudly and clearly,” she re­calls. “Even though the speech cen­tres of his brain were dam­aged from the stroke, he was still able to sing his favourite song be­cause singing uses the whole brain, and, most im­por­tantly, it was able to ac­cess the un­dam­aged right hemi­sphere.”

Of­ten, the goal with MIT is to help the pa­tient turn singing into speech by teach­ing them melodic phrases us­ing words and phrases they would want to use reg­u­larly (for ex­am­ple, “Let’s have a cup of cof­fee.”).

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