Home Music therapy Study will assess benefits of singing in patients with Parkinson’s disease

Study will assess benefits of singing in patients with Parkinson’s disease


Researchers at Iowa State University are evaluating whether four months of group singing sessions can improve breathing and swallowing in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Changes in brain activity and stress markers will also be analyzed.

The study, supported by a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is led by Elizabeth Stegemoller, PhD, a music therapist and associate professor of kinesiology — the study of human body movement — at the university, where she organizes singing lessons for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“When we sing…it’s like we’re doing little mini-exercises for the same muscles you use to swallow, breathe and cough to make them stronger and work together,” Stegemoller, who spent his career at exploring links between music and health, university says Press release.

“This new study really brings together a lot of previous research that we’ve already done, but over a longer period of time,” she added.

“It will help us understand the physical benefits of singing, such as stronger swallowing muscles, as well as the social benefits of group singing that could have a big impact on brain activity and how the body responds to stress.” , said Stegemoller.

recommended reading

The researchers hope that the results of the study, if positive, can help develop inexpensive therapeutic approaches that could target a number of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, while improving mental health and quality of life. patient life.

While Parkinson’s disease is primarily known for its characteristic movement-related symptoms, nearly 90% of patients also develop difficulty breathing, swallowing and speaking, due to weakness in the muscles that control these functions.

These deficiencies not only affect quality of life, but can also increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection that develops due to food or liquid entering the airways. Aspiration is the leading cause of death in this patient population.

Despite the profound impact of breathing, swallowing and speaking difficulties, most treatments for Parkinson’s disease still fail to address these issues. Although they can help improve patient movement, they are often expensive and associated with side effects.

“One drug can affect the way someone moves, but then that person may need to take another drug for depression and another drug for constipation,” Stegemoller said.

“Music may not treat constipation, but developing optimal music therapy could address how people with Parkinson’s move, their stress levels, social connections and experiences, depression and anxiety,” she said.

In a nutshell, “by using music instead of medication, you can treat more symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” Stegemoller said in a explanatory video.

Stegemoller’s beliefs are supported by a growing body of evidence pointing to the therapeutic potential of singing in Parkinson’s disease, including his own research.

In two previous groundbreaking studies, Stegemoller and his team showed that two months of group singing sessions, once or twice a week, significantly improved breathing and voice control, as well as muscle activity related to swallowingin adults with early stage Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers also found that this approach significantly reduced motor symptoms, including tremors and walking, and improved voice and health-related quality of life. In a follow-up study, patients reported feeling less stress and a greater sense of camaraderie with other people in the group.

Assessment Details

In the current study, researchers will assess the effects of four months of group singing sessions on patients’ breathing and swallowing skills, brain activity, and levels of inflammatory, binding, and stress markers.

Participants will have their respiratory force measured, as well as their muscle electrical activity during swallowing. Connectivity between the brain and the muscles involved in swallowing will be measured by applying a harmless electrical signal to the region of the brain that controls these muscles and collecting the response from the muscles.

Blood samples will be taken to measure levels of a protein linked to inflammation, while saliva samples will be used to measure oxytocin, a hormone involved in bonding with others, and cortisol, the main stress hormone.

Stegemoller noted that prolonged stress weakens the body’s ability to fight infection and increases inflammation, which can damage and kill brain cells.

To date, the team has collected data from participants at the start of the study, and the same tests will be performed after the four-month intervention.

These evaluations will also be conducted in a group of older adults who do not have Parkinson’s disease and do not participate in the group singing sessions to serve as a comparison.

Additionally, researchers will ask all participants about recent life events that may increase stress, previous experiences with singing and music, and, in the case of patients, how long they have been living with the condition. This is intended to help control the many factors that could potentially affect study results.

As music and other art forms are increasingly recognized for their potential to improve health outcomes, understanding the mechanisms underlying these benefits may enable increased funding for music-based therapies. art and refunds with insurance, the team noted.

“We know that music is a powerful tool for health and healing,” Stegemoller said, adding that “this research project will allow us to better understand why.”

The researchers also hope that this study will help lay the groundwork for designing interventions that will effectively improve the overall health of people with Parkinson’s disease.