Treating Parkinson's with song

(Edmonton) Merrill Tanner, a doctoral student in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, explores how singing can improve speech for patients with Parkinson’s disease. As this video shows, she is already seeing positive results.

Besides tremors, slow movement and a parkinsonian gait, patients with Parkinson’s will eventually lose the ability to speak and swallow. Singing, says Tanner, is “an energetic way to improve loudness, pitch variability, pitch range, breath support and more.”

As part of her research program, Tanner conducts her own singing therapy group for patients with Parkinson’s. “There’s something about singing together—the unison effect—when there’s more than one person, the words seem to flow better because you’re together,” she says, adding that the singing lessons accommodate any level of musical ability, whether the patient is a beginner or advanced musician.