Music a Potent Therapy for Parkinson's Sufferers | WYPR

Music a Potent Therapy for Parkinson's Sufferers

Apr 26, 2018

Researchers say singing and playing music can restore some motor control - and joy - to Parkinsons victims.
Credit :Photo courtesy The Union newspaper (CA)

Today a conversation about the interplay of music and medicine.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic degenerative brain disorder that affects about 3% of people over the age of 60.  That’s the average age of people who develop the disease, but Parkinson’s has been diagnosed in people as young as 18.  

The Parkinson’s Association reports that about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year.  There may be as many as 7-10 million people living with Parkinson’s world-wide.

There’s a story in the Baltimore Sun by Andrea McDaniels that describes how some patients use boxing to help stave-off the tremors and balance problems they experience.  And, there is some encouraging research that indicates that music may also be a helpful tool in treating the devastating symptoms of this pernicious disease. 

Dr. Zoltan Mari is the director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas and the head of the Nevada Movement Disorders Program.  He joins us on the phone from his office in Las Vegas.

Dr. Alexander Pantelyat joins us here in Studio A. He’s an assistant professor of neurology, and the co-founder and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine, a research and treatment initiative with the Peabody Institute.   As you can see in this brief clip produced by the Baltimore SunDr. Pantelyat is also an accomplished violinist.

Carolyn Black-Sotir is here as well.  She’s a singer, actress and journalist.  You may have seen her perform in concerts, or as a host on Maryland Public Television.   She lost both her parents to Parkinson’s Disease, and she has a concert series called the Steinway Series at Silo Hill in Baltimore County that is devoted to raising awareness of, and funding for, research on Parkinson’s Disease.

An outgrowth of Dr. Pantelyat's research at Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine is ParkinSonics, a research study group-turned-community chorus that's open to anyone with PD or atypical Parkinsonism. No musical experience is necessary, and everyone is welcome. Sponsored by the Maryland Association for Parkinson Support, Inc (MAPS), and Johns Hopkins Pacing for Parkinsons Campaign. For more info, email parkinsonics@comcast.net.