by Gregory Woods
There are millions who suffer from stroke-related aphasia, but no effective drug-based treatments exist. However a music-based therapy called Melodic Intonation Therapy may give people hope for recovery and hold the secret for helping those suffering from aphasia.
Aphasia is a condition that affects the brain, and leads to problems with language and in particular speech. The main causes of aphasia are stroke, severe head trauma and brain tumours. Complications include depression, anxiety, social isolation, and an inability to communicate basic needs i.e. I am hungry, I am thirsty, I am tired, I am in pain.
Aphasia is amongst the most common disorders of the brain. The Stroke Association estimates that there are more than 376,000 stroke survivors in the UK living with aphasia.
Many make a partial recovery using everyday speech therapy techniques. But the core are often left in silence, unable to communicate through speech. Frequently these people are also abandoned by loved ones and can find themselves in care facilities surrounded by people with acute dementia.
I need you to think about this scenario. Why? Because most people with aphasia caused by stroke or trauma can think as well as they did before their life changing incident. They are aware of their surroundings, but are trapped in their own minds. Often they are placed in facilities with people who are screaming, crying, moaning. I have witnessed this on a number of occasions, and it is cruel and tragic. Why? Because there is a natural, music-based solution.
I practice Melodic Intonation Therapy or M.I.T. on a weekly if not daily basis, and often find myself in heart warming, and very emotional circumstances. I am frequently told by people who have not spoken for up to 15 years that I am a miracle worker. I am NOT! I use the power of music to promote speech.
In effect, a stroke or trauma can mean the loss of brain cells. Wiith aphasia, these are generally in the left temporal region of the brain, which in the person is revealed as a weakness to the right side of the body. Thinking outside the box, I want you to think of the neural pathway from your thought centres to the mouth as a motorway/free-way. Imagine you are travelling from London to Scotland, or New York to Oregon, and there has been a disaster. A bridge has collapsed. You can travel no further. But this statement in reality would not be correct, we would normally take out a map, and find another route bypassing the fallen bridge.
The brain is very complex, and normally we use a relatively small part of our brain to read write or communicate. What makes our brain go off the scale? Music. Why? Because in music we are processing information such as, how high or low is the note? How long is the note? What is the next note? What is the melody? Do I like the harmony? What are the words to this song? What memories do they bring? And much more, WOW! Have you ever thought of music in this way?
The point is that we have music centres all over our brain, and when we play music our neural pathways light up like a Christmas tree. These pathways are the key to us finding a new route to our destination, and this town is called “Speech.”
Do you know anyone with aphasia? If so I will give you a quick test that you can use to see if M.I.T. could be effective. The key to this is you! You must be happy and positive, you must use eye contact. Say to the person, “will you try something with me?” If they agree say something like, “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but please play along. Do you remember, at school, in the playground, if we wanted to tease someone we would point our finger and sing Na, Na, Ne, Na, Na. I am going to do this to you, and I want you to tease me back.”
If the person can be encouraged to respond, then they can start to recover speech.
Na, Na, Ne, Na, Na, uses minor thirds, and our brain loves minor thirds. Use the notes of the first Na, Na’s and encourage the patient to say “Hungry” “Thirsty” or “Tired” singing using the same first two notes of the tease song. In many cases this is the point when both you and the person with aphasia will shed a tear, except this time they are tears of hope.
I have written a short book that will take you further down the road to speech, that includes M.I.T. and some basic lip throat, tongue words and exercises. You can find the book on Amazon/Kindle,or you can find the link in the books section of my website: www.amessagetomyself.com.