In The King’s Speech, George VI received help from Lionel Logue, by listening to music and singing to speak easier.
Now scientists have discovered why singing is so effective at treating a stammer.
Surprisingly it has nothing to do with the melody but instead is based on the rhythm, say scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Researchers found that highly familiar song lyrics and formulaic phrases expressed rhythmically had a strong impact on articulation – regardless of whether they were sung or spoken. The results may lead the way to new therapies for speech disorders.
The team studied people who had suffered a left-sided stroke, which had damaged speech areas in the brain’s left hemisphere, leading to difficulties speaking.
Singing was thought to stimulate areas in the right hemisphere, which would then assume the function for damaged left speech areas. Recent research has shown that changes indeed occur in the right brain hemisphere of patients after singing formulaic phrases like ‘How are you?’ over a period of months.
To find out how singing works, Benjamin Stahl and colleagues conducted a study in which 17 stroke patients with speech problems had to articulate several thousand syllables, which were sung and recited with rhythmic or arrhythmic accompaniment。
The results showed that singing was not the decisive factor for the patients. The level of familiarity with the song lyrics and whether the texts contained formulaic phrases was found to be even more important.
Benjamin Stahl is presently conducting further studies which aim to tap into the resource of rhythmic and formulaic speech for rehabilitative therapies. This could offer exciting prospects for improving the quality of life for patients.