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Music Helps Parkinson’s Patients

We all know that some music makes us want to get up and dance, while other pieces lull us to sleep. But we don't know exactly how, or why. It turns out that scientists are researching this topic and using it to help Parkinson's patients in surprising ways. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez reports.


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(music: “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones)
“What makes things groovy?…

What do we have to do with our bodies — playing these instruments and singing — in order to get their bodies moving, bobbing their heads, snapping their fingers, up from the tables, dancing?”

If Dr. Ron Tintner can answer that question, he’ll have record companies clamoring at his door.  But he’s not in it for the glory. Dr. Tintner studies movement disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, at Methodist Neurological Institute. He also wrote this song.


Parkinson’s patients have trouble with coordination-they’ll take small, slow steps, and then stop for no reason.  It’s as if their brain suddenly forgot how to walk. But music keeps them going, because it gives them a beat to hang on to.  Here’s Dr. Tintner:

“The thing that I’m researching in particular is how certain rhythms can make Parkinson’s patients move better.  So what we’re doing is looking at all kinds of rhythms, and seeing how well they spontaneously cause non-Parkinson’s patients to move”

So Dr. Tintner asks normal subjects to listen to different types of music, and then he videotapes them to rate how much they actually tap, snap, and bob.  There’s even a fancy word for “makes you move” —kinesigenic.  He hopes that the most kinesigenic music will be the best at helping Parkinson’s patients to move.

“I really do see a difference in their mood they’ll come in there real grumpy sometimes, and then leave not so grumpy.”

Anne Delaiden is a music therapist who works with Parkinson’s patients.

“It’s amazing, if they walk in and they’re kind of down, not moving a whole lot, and then you start playing the music and start getting them going, it just happens…your brain will automatically synchronize to that rhythm.  It makes them feel like they have more control over themselves…it makes them feel like they’re more in control of their movements.”

Dr. Tinter plans to give Parkinson’s patients a little music player to carry around with them. If they get stuck, they can just hit the button, and march along to the beat.

(music: Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean)

Of course, music taste will always be a personal thing.  But Dr. Tintner is trying to see if anything is universal-if some pieces just make us move.  And some of his findings are…no surprise, really.

From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez

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