Singing may reduce stress, improve motor function for people with Parkinson's disease

Singing may reduce stress, improve motor function for people with Parkinson's disease

Elizabeth Stegemöller leads a singing group for people with Parkinson's disease. Her latest research shows can lower stress and improve motor symptoms. Credit: Iowa State University

Singing may provide benefits beyond improving respiratory and swallow control in people with Parkinson's disease, according to new data from Iowa State University researchers.

The results from the pilot study revealed improvements in mood and motor symptoms, as well as the reduced physiological indicators of stress. Elizabeth Stegemöller, an assistant professor of kinesiology, cites this is preliminary data; She presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience 2018 conference.

"We see the improvement every week when they leave singing group." It's almost like they have a little pep in their step, "Stegemöller said. "Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, do not always respond to medication, but with singing they're improving."

Stegemöller, Elizabeth "Birdie" Shirtcliff, an associate professor in human development family studies; and Andrew Zaman, graduate student in kinesiology, heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels for 17 participants in a therapeutic singing group. Participants also reported feelings of sadness, anxiety, happiness and anger. Data was collected prior to and following a one-hour singing session.

This is one of the first thoughts on how to sense heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol in people with Parkinson's disease. All three levels were reduced, but Stegemöller says: There were no significant differences in happiness or anger after class. However, participants were less anxious and sad.

Why does not singing work?

The results are encouraging, but researchers still have a big question to tackle: what is the mechanism leading to these behavioral changes? They are now analyzing levels of oxytocin (a hormone related to bonding), changes in inflammation (indicia of the progression of the disease) and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to compensate for injury or disease) these factors can explain the benefits of singing.

This article suggests hormone, oxytocin, "Shirtcliff said. "We're looking at heart rate and heart rate variability, which is calm and physiologically relaxed."

The research builds upon the team's previous findings that "singing is effective in improving respiratory control and the muscles used for swallowing in people with Parkinson's disease." The prevalence of Parkinson's disease is expected to double over the next 20 years. ISU researchers say that they have the potential to provide an affordable and affordable treatment option for people with Parkinson's disease.

In this video from 2017, Stegemöller leads a singing group for people with Parkinson's disease:


Explore further:
Singing may be good medicine for Parkinson's patients

Provided by:
Iowa State University

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