Brainwaves Stroke Choir reforms with new members

May 31 2013

Brainwaves Choir has brought speech benefits for stroke survivors

The second phase of a study into the recovery benefits of music for stroke survivors will be celebrated with a free public concert at John Hunter Hospital at 10am on Monday, June 3.

The BrainWaves Choir has reformed with all new members, some of whom have aphasia – a communication impairment that can affect an individual’s ability to speak or understand others’ speech. It can also affect reading and writing.

But sometimes, despite being unable to speak, people with aphasia can still sing.

The choir program is a collaboration involving Hunter New England’s Newcastle Community Stroke Team, the University of Newcastle, HMRI, Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and supported by the National Stroke Foundation.

The singers have completed a 12 week course with choirmaster Bernadette Matthias, who is conducting PhD research on her work with the stroke survivors.

“Participation in music appears to have important benefits for stroke survivors, including those who have communication impairment,” Ms Matthias said.

“There appears to be a rich interconnection between the processes involved in singing and speech. So in addition to the benefits for well-being and depression, stimulating the brain by singing may help the language centre recover as well.”

While the results of the study have yet to be analysed, choir members have reported benefit.

“Not only do they tell me how much better they feel in themselves, some family members are reporting that choir members’ speech has really come on since taking part on the choir. They feel it is smoother and clearer than before,” Ms Matthias said.

The singers were proud of what they had achieved in the 12 week course.

“They have taken on a challenge and they are excited about performing. We love the fact that people are making practical progress in such a happy environment. Now they get to share some of that happiness,” Ms Matthias said.

Members of the public are invited to attend the choir’s performance at 10am on Monday, 3 June, at the Lecture Theatre, Royal Newcastle Centre, John Hunter Hospital. Bookings are not required; a morning tea will be served.

The concert will run for an hour and feature songs by the Beatles, John Farnham and Elvis, as well as classics such as Moon River and Amazing Grace.