The San Francisco Chronicle recently had an interesting article about Mindy Rowland using music to find her way back from aphasia. A ski accident four years ago left her with a concussion and aphasia. She couldn’t find words anymore, and she had to leave her job because communication was too difficult. She was in speech therapy and seeing doctors when she had a breakthrough, courtesy of Elton John.

Speaking Through Music

Her husband left on music and came home to find “Mindy singing along to Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer.’ At this point, Mindy could hardly string words together, but for some reason she could sing.” It’s something we’ve spoken about before with Randy Travis and the movie Still Sophie.

The article states:

Music therapy has been used to treat people with traumatic brain injuries in many cases, for people who suffer strokes or car crashes or other situations that cause trauma to the brain … Once Mindy started singing, she saw similar strides. Stew said her speaking is 10 times better now than it was before she started singing.

Mindy performed at Folk Fest, singing the songs “seamlessly, never needing to pause to remember a line.” It’s a place where the words still come fluidly.

Why Music Works

There has been plenty of research done in using music to treat aphasia. One theory is that because music crosses the hemispheres of the brain, it creates new neural pathways for language. In addition, music is ripe with repetition and patterns, two things that aid memory.

Is music therapy right for you? There are plenty of ways to formally and informally engage with music. Some clinics may offer melodic intonation therapy (MIT) or neurologic music therapy (NMT). You will need to inquire with individual local practices if they provide music therapy.

But while you’re waiting, try throwing on familiar albums and seeing if you connect with music in the same way. We hope that melodies help you find words again.

Do you find it easier to sing than speak?

Image: Adrian Korte via Unsplash