One year ago in Tucson, a gunman killed six people and wounded thirteen at the Safeway plaza on Oracle and Ina. Among the wounded was congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Mistakenly declared dead in initial news reports after she took a bullet to the head, she has made amazing progress in her recovery. A contributing factor: music therapy
Giffords still struggles to speak in sentences, but she has much less trouble singing. An important part of her therapy now involves singing songs she knew before the shooting.
The ability to speak is mainly controlled by two areas on the left side of the brain. But when we sing or listen to music, wide swaths of both sides of the brain become active. Doctors have learned putting words to melody stimulates memory and helps a damaged brain recover the ability to process language.
"And the idea is that can maybe be used as a proxy or as an alternative," said Dr. Michael Lemole, who was Giffords' neurosurgeon. "Just take away the music part and all of a sudden now you're stringing words together in a sentence.
Music, for me, has always been a powerful, magical force in itself. I don't love it because of its potential medicinal effects
. I love it because it's music.
Still, the idea that singing can help people remember how to speak makes sense to me. Very simple phrases have a lot more emotional impact when they're set to music in just the right way. Singing marries thought and emotion. Songs help us feel what we're thinking and understand what we're feeling.
Everybody needs music therapy once in a while.