Society for Neuroscience 2018


 The presentation of a study headed by Elizabeth Stegemöller at Iowa State University at the 2018 Neuroscience conference builds on her previous research showing singing might improve respiratory control and patient’s ability to swallow. This builds on singing’s demand for tighter control over muscles in the mouth and throat, making sense in terms of measurable benefits. However, her latest results have identified a much wider range of potential benefit to Parkinson’s sufferers.


The study initially looked at heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels before and after sessions of singing. Additionally, participants completed a questionnaire that rated levels of anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness. Although heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels dropped across the board, changes were not statistically significant.


Stegemöller reported: “We see improvement every week when they leave singing group. It’s almost like they have a little pep in their step. We know they’re feeling better and their mood is elevated, some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing they are improving.” Of particular note were statistically significant improvement in upper extremity bradykinesia (slowness of movement), tremor and walking.


These findings beg the question; Why does singing have any impact at all on a neurodegenerative condition? Research is continuing looking at the effect of oxytocin (a hormone related to bonding), changes in inflammation (an indicator of the progression of the disease) and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to compensate for injury or disease) as possible factors.


We will watch for further research results – Songshine starts in January at NVC. Sign up early