Can music help people with Parkinson's?

Recent research carried out in Montreal has revealed a fascinating link between the experience of listening to music and the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine has long been established as one of the brains key 'feel-good' chemicals - but this is the first study to look specifically at dopamine levels in response to listening to music. The study confirms that levels of the chemical in particular areas of the brain were up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they particularly liked.

Researchers carefully chose a small sample of people to analyse based on their high emotional sensitivity to music. The study measured the release of dopamine at peak levels of enjoyment, marked by the moment when participants reported to feel a 'shiver' down the spine as a result of their listening experience.

Dopamine is also of great interest for Parkinson's. Although we don't yet know the exact causes of the condition, we do know that Parkinson's occurs as a result of a decrease in the brain's production of the chemical due to the death of nerve cells. This is essential for movement and co-ordination.

Many people with Parkinson's do report that music really benefits their symptoms and helps to manage the condition.

If you're affected by Parkinson's and have a passion for music or any other creative arts, we would love to hear from you on the ways in which it helps living with the condition.

4 comments:

Lynn said...

Hi, my name is Lynn, and I was diagnosed with PD in February 2009 at the age of 41.

Music is central to my life: as a primary school teacher music is one of my specialisms, I have played classical guitar since the age of twelve, did the grade exams, and used to teach it as a living before training for primary teaching. Although the tremor and stiffness on my left side affect my posture, it takes my a while to fasten the children's shoe laces (!),I usually cannot use a fork correctly and I often daren't try to carry a cup and saucer in my left hand, I can still play a reasonable guitar. The tremor virtually disappears from my hand and fingers, although my leg may decide to go a little crazy, and the tremor is visible in my arm and torso.

I am still fortunately in the early stages of this condition, but I think that music does help me to deal with it. Singing is marvellous therapy, and when dancing I have been told that my physical problems are barely noticeable.

I was unable to play the guitar for many years as a result of tendon problems, and prior to the injury I was on the whole rather uncreative as a musician. I rarely improvised or composed.

Just before my forthieth birthday I bought an electric guitar and have been having great fun since playing blues and rock. I developed an intense interest in improvising, but still did not feel a need to compose. I mention this because shortly after increasing my dose of ropinirole XL to the maximum 24mg I began to write songs and melodies - I felt an intense urge to create music and express myself.

I wonder if anyone else has experienced this?

Alistair McDonald said...

We run a rehabilitation facility for people with long term neurological conditions and a nursing home for older people.

We held a music festival last year which was attended by people from the local community and our clients.

The event was a massive success and demonstrated some of the benefits that music can provide.

Please follow the link below for a film of the event:

http://www.whickhamvilla.co.uk/whickham-villa/videos

Alistair McDonald, Service Development Manager at Whickham Villa LLP

Pete the Feet said...

Lynn - absoultely wonderful. I'm a musician, with Parkinson's sufferers in my family, and I also have a writing partner who suffers but still enjoys writing music - we managed to have our first song published in Europe last year!

I myself am running a blog on which I'm writing and recording a song a week, raising money for Parkinson's UK. It's at songaweek2011.blogspot.com - check it out!

Cynthia said...

I was diagnosed 9 years ago at the age of 60. I have always loved music for as long as I can remember. Listening to the ‘Light Programme’ on the ‘wireless’ at the age of 6 or 7, I was fascinated by the voice and the name Jussi Bjorling, and his song ‘Nessun Dorma’. This led to a preference for male voices, but mainly a requirement to have music to listen to all the time. I never took to playing an instrument or singing. I recently found a survey by the BBC, using tests to find out how musical people are. My score for musical enthusiasm was high, 97%, for emotional connection and musical curiosity –medium; and for social creativity and musical perception – low, the last one achieving 1% !
I am interested in many forms of creativity, and always take part in projects organised by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in the USA, such as the Quilt Project for the recent World Congress. I also take part in the Mervyn Peake Awards, not with any hope or interest in winning, but for the challenge of completing something new. Sometimes to the point of obsession, - is this due to dopamine agonists or just my interest? Whichever, I believe that remaining involved, active and interested are very important for everyone, but particularly people with Parkinson’s, as it is often tempting to just sit back and let Parkinson’s take over.

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