Imagine a world where you can’t speak. It’s that tip of the tongue moment which frustrates us all, but is an everyday reality for people with aphasia. This language disorder results from brain damage like stroke, when the brain area responsible for organizing words is starved of oxygen and dies. So picture an aphasia sufferers’ surprise when words flow out while singing. It’s an eccentricity of the brain; while words are used in speech and song, the brain areas responsible for ordering them are in very different places. Our creative right hemisphere controls song, while the logical left hemisphere sorts out speech. Now our team of scientists and musicians are looking at ways we can use singing as therapy. Firstly, singing may help bring back language, by encouraging brain rewiring. Secondly, singing helps people with communication problems practice words. Finally, being part of a choir helps isolated people make friends. Our model of music therapy, ‘Choral Singing Therapy’, brings together people with communication difficulties to practice vocal exercises and popular song singing. We’ve shown that participants have higher mood, social participation and self-efficacy than the norm, and improved quality of life. In this talk, I explain our collaboration and explore the neuroscience, art and therapeutic potential of singing in a choir.
Fogg-Rogers, L. A. (2014, March). Singing in unison: The neuroscience, art and therapy of music. Presented at AHRC Science in Culture Ignite 2014, London, UK