Singing may reduce stress and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, say scientists who found that the benefits of musical therapy were similar to taking medication. Researchers from Iowa State University in the US measured 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. “We see the improvement every week when they leave singing group. It’s almost like they have a little pep in their step. We know they’re feeling better and their mood is elevated,” said Elizabeth Stegemoller, an assistant professor at Iowa State University.
“Some of the symptoms that are improving, such as finger tapping and the gait, don’t always readily respond to medication, but with singing, they’re improving,” said Stegemoller.
This is one of the first studies to look at how singing affects heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol in people with Parkinson’s disease. All three levels were reduced, but Stegemoller said with the preliminary data the measures did not reach statistical significance. There were no significant differences in happiness or anger after class. However, participants were less anxious and sad.
The research builds upon the team’s previous findings that singing is an effective treatment to improve respiratory control and the muscles used for swallowing in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers said that therapeutic singing has the potential to provide an accessible and affordable treatment option to improve motor symptoms, stress and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.