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Stroke victims turn to song

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 4:31 pm | Updated: 4:41 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

It steals your speech, scrambles your thoughts and robs you of your ability to move. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America. It's the number one cause of disability. Now, victims are turning to song to get their voices back.

Different patients, all with the same story.

"I woke up and I was numb on one side," says Barbara Pope.

"I cannot move my right arm," says Lee Jordan.

"It's all in there, it's in there, but I can't have it outlet," says Phil Liu.

Like many stroke victims, Phil Liu and couldn't speak. "The only word I could say was yes." Music got him talking again.

Patients at the Oregon Stroke Center come together each week to sing.

New research suggests singing or playing music, maybe even just hearing it, helps rewire the brain after a stroke. "Music is represented more in the right side of the brain in most people, and language more on the left side," says Helmi Lutsep, MD Professor of Neurology Oregon Health & Science University.

Doctors are trying to use music to move language skills from the left, to the right side of the brain. "Maybe we can allow language also to, um, sort of rewire itself."

And it may never be too late to start. "We've done trials with people as late as 17 years out from their stroke and they still showed improvement."

New studies out of Temple University found that music not only affects a person's motor abilities, but also lowered stroke patients' blood pressure, heart rate, and level of anxiety.

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