How Singing Helps Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Some of Parkinson’s disease’s symptoms can be alleviated with group singing, says a new study published online.


Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system, is somewhat complicated to treat. Given that it comes with varied symptoms — from shivers in the limbs and face to decreased movement speed and balance problems together with emotional disruptions and troubles in breathing and in voice — existing individual treatment does not cater for all of them. One of the symptoms that is not adequately taken care of is voice impairment which is known to affect the majority of Parkinson’s patients. This causes them to have a monotonous voice with articulatory and fluency deficits that will develop in later stages of the disease.

Speech therapy exists for these patients but they are not deemed as effective as other treatments dealing with the motor symptoms. Singing in groups might actually be a solution to this aspect of the disease, says the new study’s lead author, Elizabeth Stegemöller.

Stegemöller’s and her team wanted to determine whether group singing would relive patients of the voice symptoms and simultaneously enhance their quality of life. While previous studies have attempted to investigate the impact of singing on the patients, this research is different because it tested the effects of the ‘dosage’ of regular singing (singing sessions scheduled for one and two days per week).

Participants were sorted into two groups as per the number of singing sessions, and their swallowing and voice measures were taken before and after the trial.

The findings indicate that 2 months of singing were followed by significant improvements in pitch duration, vocal loudness and swallow control. It is to be noted that patients from both groups had a better maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressure, and phonation time. Overall, their quality of life also improved.

Furthermore, the two groups did not differ in terms of the extent of the benefits: rather, both were equally salubrious.

According to Stegemöller, their findings suggest that the faculty of speech can be maintained for a longer time for these patients as opposed to the otherwise normal degeneration in the skills.

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