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Strengthening Voice, Respiratory Control in PD Patients

August 07, 2017

The findings of a new study suggest that singing may help individuals with Parkinson disease improve their swallowing and respiratory control.

The study by Elizabeth L Stegmöller, PhD, MT-BC, (Iowa State University), and colleagues hypothesized that singing may be able to improve the voice, respiratory pressure, and quality of life (QOL) in people with PD since singing uses the same muscles associated with swallowing and respiratory control. The results of the study are published in two journals: Disability and Rehabilitation (2016;39[6]: 594) and Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2017;31:127).

Researchers conducted weekly music therapy classes for 27 individuals with PD. Metal folding chairs were arranged in a circle around a piano for participants while board-certified music therapists lead the class through a series of vocal exercises and songs. “We work on proper breath support, posture and how we use the muscles involved with the vocal cords, which requires them to intricately coordinate good, strong muscle activity,” said Dr Stegmöller.
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Individuals were assigned to one of two groups in the study: those who met twice weekly and those who met once weekly for 8 weeks. Voice, respiratory, and QOL measures were recorded prior and after the intervention. Both group saw improvements in maximum inspiratory and expiratory pressure and in phonation time. Individuals’ QOL also significantly improved. Other voice measures improved as well but did not reach statistical significance.

One of the study participants Jackie Manatt started attending the class two years ago, and said she has noticed improvements in how her voice projects. Dr Stegmöller reports that other participants, their caregivers, and families have noticed other benefits, such as changes to mood, stress levels, and depression (ScienceDaily. August 2, 2017).—Amanda Del Signore

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