Singing is joyful and may have the same benefits as taking medication, for people with Parkinson’s disease

Who doesn’t enjoy singing along with their favourite song? It’s an easy and instant mood booster.

For people with Parkinson’s disease, singing does more than boost their mood, it also improves respiratory and swallow control, motor symptoms and reduces physiological indicators of stress.

This is according to Iowa State University researchers.

Improvements similar to taking medication

Elizabeth Stegemöller, an assistant professor of kinesiology, says the improvements among singing participants are similar to the benefits of taking medication.

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“We see the 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,” says Stegemöller. “Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing they’re improving.”

This is one of the first studies to look at how singing affects heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol in people with Parkinson’s disease.

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The researchers measured heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels for 17 participants in a therapeutic singing group. Participants also reported feelings of sadness, anxiety, happiness and anger. Data was collected prior to and following a one-hour singing session.

There were no significant differences in happiness or anger after class. However, participants were less anxious and sad.

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Why does singing work?

This is the question researchers are tackling now by analysing blood samples.

They are measuring levels 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) to determine if these factors can explain the beneficial effects of singing.

The researchers say that part of the reason cortisol is going down could be because the singing participants feel more positive and less stressed while singing with others in the group.

According to them, therapeutic singing has the potential to provide an accessible and affordable treatment option to improve motor symptoms, stress and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Iowa State University via www.sciencedaily.com

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