22 Feb 2010

Music helps 'rewire brain' of stroke patients

6:31 am on 22 February 2010

Researchers in the United States say teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech.

By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.

If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead, the BBC reports.

Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

Gottfried Schlaug, a neurology professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, says his was the first study to combine this therapy with brain imaging - "to show what is actually going on in the brain" as patients learn to sing their words.

During the therapy sessions, patients are taught to put their words to simple melodies.

Professor Schlaug said that after a single session, a stroke patients who was are not able to form any intelligible words learned to say the phrase "I am thirsty" by combining each syllable with the note of a melody.