It turns out that tuning in with your musical side might be the newest way to improve memory after a stroke. Who knew creativity could be so practical? Science has shown that singing new songs might be easier to learn and remember compared to spoken words. So Finnish researchers decided to investigate whether songs could help stroke patients with learning and recall. They recruited 31 people who had suffered a stroke recently, as well as those who had a stroke six months ago, to see whether songs could help them with their recovery.
The difference between spoken and serenaded stories
The researchers studied whether learning and recall in singing tasks were better than those seen in speaking tasks. They wanted to look at patterns in three key deficits: language (aphasia), music perception (amusia), and memory. To do this, researchers developed the ‘Sung-Spoken Story Recall Task’. They compared learning and recall performance between song and storytelling formats. The researchers created four different short stories, each about 57 words long, organized into five verses. Each story shared a common theme that included an unexpected or ironic event of everyday life. For example, one of the stories was about unexpectantly running into an old friend and randomly ending up cooking lunch together.
Researchers found that the benefits of singing these stories for better recall and memory were most apparent in patients who had a stroke six months prior. The effect was mainly seen in those with mild cases of aphasia. Additionally, those who had problems with memory or amusia also increased their recall of the stories when they were serenaded rather than spoken. This improvement in memory based on melody and song was not as pronounced in those who had recently had a stroke.
How does music affect our memories?
There are many reasons why experts think singing might benefit memory and recall. For one, adding a musical quality to the story helps keep the text connected in some way. Also, repeated melodies across versus help to accentuate surface characteristics of the text. Additionally, the speed at which people sing is natural and slower than that of speech. This helps a person enjoy the story and commit it to memory.
There is nothing to lose here
Listen and enjoy the music! It’s a win-win situation for everyone, and stroke patients can benefit even further by improving their memory and stroke recovery. Music is free to enjoy, good for your soul, and turns out – good for your brain too. So what are you waiting for?
The lead author of this study is Vera Leo, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.