Choral Singing for Patients with Parkinson's
Project team: Günther Bernatzky, Katarzyna Grebosz-Haring, Franz Wendtner and Klaus Kieslinger
Parkinson’s is predominantly a disease of older age. In total, about 16,000 patients suffer from it in Austria. This corresponds to about 0.1% of the population over 50 years of age. In addition to motor and speech deficits, psychological symptoms also occur. These are usually seen between the ages of 50 and 60. The lack of dopamine is the main basis for modern Parkinson’s therapy. Today, the physiological aspect of Parkinson’s disease can be well controlled with medication. Significantly better success can only be achieved with accompanying music-related intervention. Regular choral singing under professional guidance at least twice a week for a period of one year, for example, seems to be advantageous. The music-induced rhythmic movement, the active posture, the more differentiated use of the vocal apparatus and breathing compared to speaking and last but not least, the predominantly positive affectivity show singing to be a complex, ecologically valid and psychosocially effective form of interpersonal interaction.
In short, many of the therapeutic goals relevant for people with Parkinson’s disease are likely to be better achieved through this group activity. Singing together stimulates numerous physical systems as well as perception, attention and cognition. Synchronized movements have also been associated with increased pain tolerance in various studies and may be beneficial in maintaining motor performance in people with Parkinson’s disease.
According to other systematic observations, singing improves the immune system in many patients. The results show significant improvements in various health indicators, even over the long term. In addition, regular listening to specifically selected stimulating music leads to increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Among other things, dopamine is released. In the case of sudden blockages, for example, the pointed rhythms of the Radetzky March help in ways that no medication has been able to achieve so rapidly thus far.
The aim of this randomized pilot project is to investigate (a) the duration of the effect of choral singing on the improvement of motor performance or on other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (e.g. depression, social aspects, psychological state), (b) the level of patient compliance and (c) the amount of medication consumed. In addition, it should be clarified how often choral singing can be reasonably practiced until an attenuation (tolerance) of the effect occurs. The stress-reducing component should be recorded by means of the biochemical measurements of cortisol and ACTH.
To objectivize this study, two groups of 20 patients each will be randomly assigned, with group two receiving the receptive music intervention as a control group. Overall, it is hoped that the study will provide evidence of improvement in the quality of life and well-being of the patients.
The results of the present study plan will also be offered to support rehabilitation centers. Publications and conference presentations are planned.