June 21, 2010

Why a brain damaged person who can't speak...

... can sing words clearly.

24 comments:

HKatz said...

This is beautiful. Music as a healing force (reminds me of music therapy given to patients with Parkinson's disease).

"If you damage the left side, the right side has trouble [fulfilling that role]."
But as patients learn to put their words to melodies, the crucial connections form on the right side of their brains.


It's interesting if their work extends to people who don't have such clear-cut lateralization of language use; for instance, left-hemisphere domination in language functions is less prevalent in left-handed people than right-handed people.

Also there are different language functions - does the use of melodies relate to the day to day prosody (rhythm, intonation) of speech?

lyssalovelyredhead said...

How interesting. When I was in college, I made a little extra money sitting for a family with a young child and older woman who had suffered a stroke (so the caught in between parents could have a night out every once in a while). The woman, who seems very elderly to me, but probably wasn't out of her 50's, was paralyzed on one side, wheelchair confined, and unable to speak. She apparently had clear mental abilities, but when she tried to speak, it just came out as "bizy bizy," although it seemed to her that she was speaking normal words.

Watching her struggle to tell me what she wanted was heartwrenching, as was, I'm sure, this loss of control and independence. She was undergoing speech therapy, but clearly hated it, and it didn't appear to help. I wonder if this would have helped her.

- Lyssa

Quasimodo said...

the brain is a strange thing. i knew a couple whose son was injured in an accident while serving in the military. he wrote them a letter home and when he tried to proof read it, he discovered he couldn't read. he could write but not read for a short time.

failure to properly capitalize is a sign of insanity.

Hagar said...

A long time ago I knew a student from Singapore. Very bright, but his accent was so thick that it was difficult to understand his speech. However, he could sing beautifully, and with no trace of accent.

Paddy O said...

Have you seen the PBS special on music and science?

There was one segment on a surgeon who was completely musically illiterate who was struck by lightning, then became obsessed with listening to and then learning how to play music, so much so he is now an accomplishes pianist.

edutcher said...

Not unlike country singer Mel Tillis, who had a terrible stutter (not the same thing, I know, but...), although he sang beautifully.

Paddy O said...

Same show, there was another very interesting segment on a guy with severe Tourette syndrome. He could only focus his ticks and movement when playing drums, and then could hold a perfectly steady beat. He became a drum teacher working with other folks with tourette syndrome folks, leading drum circles on occasion. They showed the whole group with their seemingly random movements, ticks, etc. who when they began to play their various percussion instruments would all play in rhythm together.

Scott M said...

I think it's amazing we understand the brain so little even in these days of medical wonders. Dreaming still has 'em befuddled.

It's obvious that we're not the only species that dreams, but given that, what is the evolutionary advantage to dreaming for lower-cognitive species like dogs? How far down the chain does dream go?

John Stodder said...

Both stories Paddy O mentioned and many others of that nature are in Oliver Sacks' great book "Musicophilia." http://tinyurl.com/2ebtot7

It's fascinating to ponder the brain's many distinct pathways: language v. music, pain v. itch, ways we access the deepest caverns of memory, the spectrum of autism, the influence of the subconscious, etc. I can read that stuff all day.

Joan said...

I have felt how music involves my whole brain, whereas spoken language allows parts of it to wander off -- I have problems focusing at times, particularly during prayer, which is why I love hymns and sung prayers, because I can't sing them mindlessly. To sing a prayer is to pray with my whole heart and mind, the way it should be done.

I am left-handed, so maybe my inability to focus (engage my entire attention) on spoken words has something to do with that. But I love it that my own experience has scientific confirmation -- more proof that I'm not (entirely) crazy.

bagoh20 said...

It's wonderful to realize that music was never invented, but is a part of us. So many other animals do it too. A truly special thing.

Ann Althouse said...

I've read "Musicophilia." Not my favorite Sacks book, but terrific.

Scott M said...

It's wonderful to realize that music was never invented, but is a part of us. So many other animals do it too. A truly special thing.

That's along the same lines as "math was not invented, it was discovered". Sure, we came up with the symbols for numbers and computations, much as with notes and bars, but the three sides and interior angles of an isosceles triangle are all still equal regardless of what we call it or if we're even around to give it a name in the first place.

That's always fascinated me. If math and music were discovered, not invented, than pretty much everything else is discovered, not invented. A very CS Lewis way of looking at things, I suppose.

jayne_cobb said...

Reminds me of an SNL skit a few years back.

The joke was that nobody could understand what Ozzy Osbourne was saying unless he was singing.

Methadras said...

I remember watching American Idol a couple of years ago, I think and there was this kid during the LA cuts who was an American, but when he sang, had this weird warbling accent that was English. Even Simon thought it was bizarre.

TMink said...

Carly Simon also sang so that she would not stutter. Worked out for both her and Mel.

Trey

TMink said...

Methadras, whenever the kids are playing Beatles Rock Band and they ask me to sing, it comes out sounding like the lads instead of me. I have heard those songs that way for so long, that is they was they come out of my mouth!

Trey

sunsong said...

Alzheimer's patients who cannot speak can also sing. They need familiar music, but some can sing entire songs and get the words right - where they can't put a sentence together if you talk to them.

Music is deeper in the brain, as I understand it - in the emotional areas - which makes sense as music is so much about emotion.

It seems to me that singing would also be good for the lungs :-)

TMink said...

sunsong, I am not sure that music is deeper in the brain so much as it is a second "speech" center that is hooked more closely to pitch, timing, and emotions.

But it is indeed a powerful neural hack that can get right to our feelings.

Trey

AllenS said...

I can't sing worth a damn, and I play no musical instruments. I could use a good whack upside the head. I guess.

Sara (Pal2Pal) said...

My Mother's first stroke took 95% of her eyesight, but no other effects. Her 2nd stroke took her ability to recognize danger and caused some speech aphasia. Neither stroke affected her intellect.

For instance, we were out in the back yard in the Summer and had the Tiki torch lights lit and she said, with wonder and awe in her voice, "Aren't those ovens beautiful reflecting light off the water of the pond?" She was always substituting words when the aphasia wouldn't allow her to produce the exact words, hence ovens for torches.

The last months of her life, this problem became worse and worse, until it was hard for any of us to interpret what she was actually trying to say.

One day when our grand niece and nephew were here, I was looking for ways to entertain them and we decided to make some handmade instruments and have a concert. The kids were six and three. I don't really know alot of kids songs, so I was wracking my brain for the words to some of the old Girl Scout/Brownie songs I knew from my youth. I was trying to get all the words and the right tune to one old song, when suddenly my Mother, who barely said a word at this point, broke out in full voice and sang the song all the way through without missing a note or a word. I just stared at her in astonishment. I immediately dug out the box with all my old camp songbooks and started naming songs from the book. In each and every case, she was able to sing the words exactly and all in perfect pitch and tune. From that point on, we started sing songing all kinds of things and Mother would answer back in song.

sunsong said...

Trey,

Thanks for the info. I could so easily be wrong :-)

I was taught of the reptillian (brain stem) & limbic brains with the cerebral cortex (helmet like) on top.

And, of course, there is fascinating info now on the temporal or frontal lobes - which I understand to be about the future?

Ralph L said...

Decades ago, P. G. Wodehouse cured a Mulliner's horrible stutter by having him sing. I believe he got the girl of his dreams.

Deborah said...

That is why the Torah is chanted.

wv: ingest