Singing Found to Aid in the Language Recovery of Stroke Patients

Southern Cross University

By Ben Crowle
Monday, 01 July, 2024

Singing Found to Aid in the Language Recovery of Stroke Patients

A stroke is caused by a loss of blood flow to the brain. It is a critical condition that requires immediate treatment, and even with full recovery, patients may experience a sudden loss of muscular control, cognition, and emotional regulation and control. Now a new study from the University of Helsinki has given speech pathologists and students like those in the Ithaca College online speech pathologist program a new avenue for helping stroke victims who are experiencing a decline in their speech function.

The Helsinki study

On 16 May 2024, the University of Helsinki published a study on speech pathology treatment for people who had suffered cerebrovascular accidents (commonly known as strokes) resulting in a condition called aphasia.

Aphasia is a neurological condition where the brain’s ability to produce and recognise speech is damaged, resulting in disrupted speech patterns, slurring, an inability to recall certain words and more. Aphasia manifests in various forms and originates from multiple causes; however, stroke is one of the most prevalent sources of this condition. Approximately 20–40% of stroke victims develop aphasia as a result. The condition is treatable, and even in permanent cases, aphasia’s symptoms can be managed effectively with ongoing speech therapy.

The study conducted by the University of Helsinki has uncovered what may be a radically effective treatment for stroke victims suffering from aphasia — singing.

Singing for strokes

Music has a long history of assisting people with healing from both physical and mental trauma. In the context of the study, it has been discovered that sung music is capable of repairing the neurological structures that are damaged in the course of a stroke and result in patients experiencing aphasia.

The network of structures in the brain that control language comprehension and production can become heavily damaged through the lack of oxygen to the brain that results from a stroke. The study showed that regular singing increased grey matter in the regions of the brain associated with language and that the connections in the language network of the left hemisphere were strengthened after regular singing.

Image credit: Stamat

The significance of the findings

The University of Helsinki’s groundbreaking research presents an innovative and accessible approach to aphasia treatment for stroke survivors through singing. This study highlights the therapeutic potential of music in neurological recovery, demonstrating that regular singing can significantly repair and enhance the neural structures damaged by strokes.

Importantly, this method provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional therapies, which can be financially burdensome for many patients. The inclusivity of singing as a form of treatment means that individuals from various backgrounds can benefit from it, regardless of their musical skill or experience.

As this promising technique gains further validation and is integrated into rehabilitation programs, it could dramatically improve communication abilities and overall quality of life for those affected by aphasia. Ultimately, this research offers hope and a new avenue for recovery, empowering stroke survivors to reclaim their language skills and independence through the joy of music.

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