Music used as therapy for Parkinson’s sufferers

Cindy Stauffer | 11/19/2008, 4:03 a.m.

In Chicago, Rush University Medical Center is collaborating with a dance company in a contemporary dance program for people with Parkinson’s. The idea is that moving to music will reinforce movement pathways in the brain, or create new ones, as well as fight the depression often felt by Parkinson’s patients.

And a study is under way at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Texas to determine which musical rhythms are more therapeutic for Parkinson’s patients. Ultimately, the goal is to create a device, similar to a personal music device, tailored to a patient’s particular needs.

In his 2007 book, “Musicophilia,” Oliver Sacks has a chapter on Parkinson’s disease and music therapy. The professor, author of the book “Awakenings” that was made into a 1990 film, describes how music lights up and awakens people with Parkinson’s.

Music is what they need, he writes, “for only music, which is rigorous yet spacious, sinuous and alive, can evoke responses that are equally so.”

Just ask Bob Dawson, a Canadian man with Parkinson’s who writes a blog called “Parkinson’s Patients: Yes We Can Dance.”

He writes: “A friend bombarded me with the blues. I started to dance, and groove, and visualize. Music on disease much better. Music off symptoms come back. How come?

“This site does not contain a cure for Parkinson’s. I do not know if music and dance can help everybody.

“If you have Parkinson’s, it is my personal, nonscientific opinion that you should find music that you get off on, play it loud, and start to move to the music. Every day.”

Masonic Village offers dances every three months in its Health Care Center. Usually about 100 people attend.

The story is told in their faces, which light up with joy as they sing and tap their feet. Those who are able waltz around the floor. Workers push others in their wheelchairs. Years melt away as they sing, “In the shade of the old apple tree, where the love in your eyes I could see …”

Sutton says that when the music comes on, he can move more easily.

He feels freer, too.

“I’m not inhibited in any way,” he says.

“I feel it’s just something that comes out of me.”

(The Lancaster, Pa., New Era)