Somewhere Over the Rainbow

You know those songs that in grand color immediately transport you back to a specific setting or emotional compass? The songs in which words automatically flow without even thinking about the lyrics?

Did you ever think that such songs could be used in therapy or even as modes to overcome physical difficulties?

A recent movie entitled “The Music Never Stopped” explores some of the connections between music, memory, family, and ultimately the mystery of the brain. An estranged son undergoes a surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, and although it’s successful, the part of the brain responsible for creating memories has been damaged. The parents realize that music from their son’s teenage years is the key to walking forward, even if they are not particular fans.

The movie came on a recent wave of awareness regarding music therapy and the almost miraculous events it incurs. Whether Daniel Levitin’s science based book, “This is Your Brain on Music,” or Oliver Sachs compilation of personal essays in “Musicophilia” start the conversation, the reality is music is integrally tied to memory.   In the book, Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, Robert Jourdain reveals that the neural pathway from the ears does not go directly into the central cortex for processing but sends its signals in tentacles throughout the brain, going not only to the verbal centers, but also the parts of the brain that control movement and memories.  Not a believer? Visit a nursing home and count the number of people who can sing songs from their teenage years, meanwhile not knowing the names of their own children. Or the Alzheimer’s patient, unable to communicate who, at dinner, suddenly stood and sang the last part of an aria from an opera that she had known in her youth.  Take the example of a music therapist who was leading a sing-along session in an Alzheimer’s unit. A resident there with moderate Alzheimer’s including aphasia (loss of speech) was a willing dance volunteer as Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played in the background. Then, he proceeded to say the last few words of the song, “Why, Oh Why, Can’t I?” (Click Here for Full Article)

To read more on this fascinating subject, check out the following articles on Music Therapy: