The story appears on

Page C3

February 23, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Singing heals the brain

SINGING and musical training enhances the brain's ability to do other things. New research shows music therapy may help some stroke victims speak and improve communication in children with dyslexia and autism. Randolph E. Schmid reports.

Words and music - such natural partners that it seems obvious they go together. Now science is confirming that those abilities are linked in the brain, a finding that might even lead to better stroke treatments.

Studies have found overlap in the brain's processing of language and instrumental music, and new research suggests that intensive musical therapy may help improve speech in stroke patients, researchers reported last Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition, researchers say, music education can help children with developmental dyslexia or autism more accurately use speech.

People who have suffered a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and cannot speak can sometimes learn to communicate through singing, Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, told the meeting.

"Music making is a multi-sensory experience, activating links to several parts of the brain," Schlaug says.

Schlaug showed a video of one patient who at first could only make meaningless sounds learning to say "I am thirsty," by singing the words, and another was able to sing "happy birthday."

"If you have someone who is nonverbal and they can say there are hungry or thirsty or ask where the bathroom is, that's an improvement," Schlaug says of what is called Melodic Intonation Therapy.

As long as a century ago there were reports of stroke victims who couldn't talk but who could sing, he says. Now, they are doing trials to see if music can be used as a therapy.

But, he cautioned, the work is geared toward people who have had a severe stroke on the left side of the brain and the therapy can take a long time.

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, reported that new studies show that musical training enhances the brain's ability to do other things.

For example, she says, the trained brain gets better at detecting patterns in sounds, so that musicians are better at picking out the voice of a friend in a noisy restaurant.

"Musical experience improves abilities important in daily life," she says. "Playing an instrument may help youngsters better process speech in noisy classrooms and more accurately interpret the nuances of language that are conveyed by subtle changes in the human voice."

When people first learn to talk and when they talk to babies they often use musical patterns in their speech, she notes.

"People's hearing systems are fine-tuned by the experiences they've had with sound throughout their lives. Music training is not only beneficial for processing music stimuli. We've found that years of music training may also improve how sounds are processed for language and emotion," Kraus says in prepared remarks.

She says "the very responses that are enhanced in musicians are deficient in clinical populations such as children with developmental dyslexia and autism."

New studies of brain waves, she notes, mimic the patterns of sound that the individual hears. Whether speech or instrumental music is heard, it is actually possible to record the brain's electronic waves and play them back to hear the sound - which she demonstrated with a series of recordings.

Aniruddh D. Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, says new studies show that music doesn't involve just hot spots in the brain, but large swaths on both sides of the brain.

"Nouns and verbs are very different from tones and chords and harmony, but the parts of the brain that process them overlap," he says.

Some scientists, among them Charles Darwin, have speculated that musical ability in humans might have developed before language, Patel says.

White fungus

Zhang Qian

White fungus is one of the top reinforcing foods in traditional Chinese medicine, and is known as xue'er (snow fungus) because of its color.

Its high nutrition and low price makes it the pricey "bird's nest soup" for ordinary people.

The fungus contains rich microelements, especially calcium and iron. Every 100 grams of fungus is said to contain 643 milligrams of calcium and 30mg iron. It contains vitamin D that prevents calcium loss.

The gelatin contained by white fungus nourishes the skin and helps clear blemishes and pigmentation.

It contains amylase that helps strengthens immunity and selenium that helps chemo-therapy patients. Its fiber reduces fat absorption.

TCM considers white fungus a "neutral" energy food that especially nourishes yin (cold) energy, reinforces the spleen and kidneys, improves appetite, nourishes lungs, clears intestines, dispels pathogenic heat and improves the complexion.

White fungus helps dispel pathogenic heat and improves the liver's detoxifying function.

The wonder fungus can help relive coughing due to pathogenic heat or dryness in the lungs, irregular menstruation, stomach inflammation and constipation.

The fungus is usually added to sweet congee or soup, making them thicker and more nutritious.

It can be ground into powder and mixed with liquid masks to improve the skin.

Because it contains sugar it's not suitable for diabetics.

Most white fungus is sold in dried form and needs to be soaked and cleaned, the shriveled parts removed. Don't keep it too long before using as it can develop toxic mold.

White fungus and jujube congee

Ingredients: white fungus (25g), dried jujube (15g)


1. Soak fungus in cold or warm water for four hours, clean, tear into pieces.

2. Wash and pit jujubes.

3. Make congee, add sugar to sweeten.

Benefits: Helps nourish yin energy, benefit spleen and kidney, reinforce energy, nourish lungs and perfect skin. Jujubes can help reinforce energy and blood, as well as benefit the spleen. Eaten regularly, it improves the complexion.

White fungus, jasmine, and green tea soup

Ingredients: white fungus (25g), jasmine flowers (10), a cup of green tea


1. Soak fungus for four hours, clean and tear into small pieces.

2. Make congee.

Benefits: Helps nourish and whiten skin.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend