During graduate school, I had the pleasure of working with an individual with severe non-fluent aphasia post stroke. My patient’s expressive output was limited to a few words, and he was outwardly frustrated by his limitations. One day, I decided to introduce music therapy into our sessions, and it was a success! By using the techniques from Melodic Intonation Therapy, my patient was able to spontaneously produce lyrics from some of his favorite tunes, including “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Tears of pure joy fell from his face when he was able to so effortlessly produce speech again. It was so rewarding.
Singing, Is It Therapeutic? “Some patients can sing familiar songs, sometimes only the tune without intelligible words, but sometimes with the approximation of the lyrics, even when they cannot vocalize under other conditions.”
Music As Therapy: Music therapy has been used in rehabilitation to stimulate brain functions involved in speech. Musical structures and language structures have many similar features, which generates continuous research interest.
Developed in 1973 by Albert, Sparks, and Helm, Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) is a formal treatment program originally intended for patients with severe non-fluent aphasia. MIT uses the musical elements of speech (melody and rhythm) to improve expressive language by capitalizing on preserved function (singing) and engaging language-capable regions in the undamaged right hemisphere. Since the original publication, this technique has been researched and used by SLPs, music therapists, and music neuroscientists. Improvements of speech abilities in adults with non-fluent aphasia has led to new development of research aiming towards evidence of MIT on other individuals with communication disorders, such as apraxia of speech.
The Technique: MIT was designed to elicit speech from severely aphasic patients with little or no volitional speech. It places the patient in structured drills in which phrases are produced with exaggerated stress, rhythm, and pitch. The patient taps out the rhythm of each phrase while producing the phrase. The patient is trained to utter prepositional phrases and sentences using sung intonation patterns that are similar to the natural intonation patterns of the spoken phrases or sentences.
Melodic Intonation Therapy continues to be a primary mode of treatment to facilitate production of communicative words and phrases. Click the links below to watch real-life examples of the effectiveness of MIT. Have a great Labor Day weekend and thanks for reading!
Amanda Weiner M.S. CF-SLP, TSSLD