Imagine waking up one day unable to speak.
It’s called aphasia and it a devastating disorder. But just like music can bring joy to life, it can also bring the joy of speech back to those who suffer a loss of language.
After 50 years of marriage, Estelle started stumbling when she talked. Her husband Richard describes the progression.
“She would screw up her pronouns; she'd say, you need to go to the store, when she meant herself, she needed to go to the store. She’s fluent in two languages, Spanish and French," says Richard Blumberg.
Estelle was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia.
“Aphasia is the loss of language. You want to say something to somebody, and the word just doesn't come,” says Fred Dicarlo, assistant professor, speech & language pathology at Nova Southeastern University.
Professor Dicarlo says the disorder shuts down your ability to speak, but it comes on slowly and sufferers learn to hide what’s happening by using what he calls, cocktail speech.
“They're able to socialize, mingle and say the words here and there, and people don't really notice,” says Dicarlo.
But over time, they can’t fake it and lose the ability to speak as well as to understand and remember.
So Professor Dicarlo and his students created a dance contest, building on the success of melodic intonation therapy, which converts singing into speech to help with memory and verbalization.
“Where you use melody, introduce the melody to words,” says Dicarlo.
Estelle’s breakthrough came with the words to her favorite Frank Sinatra song, "Fly Me to the Moon"!
“Whenever I look at her, and she's smiling, I feel good,” says Estelle’s husband, Richard.
Researchers from the University of Illinois compared three groups of older adults who walked briskly, stretched, or took dance classes. The first two groups had degeneration in the brain, but the group that danced had improved processing speed and memory.