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Music a ‘mega-vitamin’ for the brain

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 3, 2009

LONDON, England (CNN) — When Nina Temple was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, then aged 44, she quickly became depressed, barely venturing out of her house as she struggled to come to terms with living with the chronic condition.

Sing for Joy is a choir made up of sufferers of neurological conditions plus friends, family and carers.

Sing for Joy is a choir made up of sufferers of neurological conditions plus friends, family and carers.

“I was thinking of all the things which I wished I’d done with my life and I wouldn’t be able to do. And then I started thinking about all the things that I still actually could do and singing was one of those,” Temple told CNN.


Along with a fellow Parkinson’s sufferer, Temple decided, on a whim, to form a choir. The pair placed notices in doctor’s surgeries inviting others to join them and advertised for a singing teacher.

By 2003, with the help of funding from the Parkinson’s Disease Society, the resulting ensemble “Sing For Joy” was up and running, rehearsing weekly and soon graduating to public performances.

The group now consists of around two dozen singers, including sufferers of Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, others recovering from conditions including stroke or cancer, plus their carers, family and friends. Led by acclaimed jazz performer Carol Grimes, the group’s genre-defying repertoire ranges from Cole Porter classics to ethnic punk. Video Watch Sing for Joy perform »

“It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by the disease and having something that you do every week that makes you forget all your troubles and keeps you from feeling isolated is a great pleasure,” says Temple.

But singing also has physical and neurological benefits for the choir’s members. A common symptom of Parkinson’s disease and similar conditions is voice loss and each week the group begins its rehearsals with vocal exercises worked out with speech therapists.

“All neurological conditions affect the throat because it has so many muscles,” says Sarah Benton, another choir member with multiple sclerosis. “So singing, which makes you lift up your body and expand your lungs, is perfect for neurological diseases.”

While “Sing for Joy’s” DIY-style music therapy has provided obvious social, mental and physical benefits for its members, there is a growing body of clinical evidence suggesting that music can play a key role in aiding recovery or helping sufferers cope with a broad range of brain-based conditions. Does music affect your mood or have particular physical or mental benefits? Sound Off below

Doctor Wendy Magee, International Fellow in Music Therapy at London’s Institute of Neuropalliative Rehabilitation, describes music as a “mega-vitamin for the brain,” capable of influencing and improving motor function, communication and even cognition.

“When neural pathways are damaged for one particular function such as language, musical neural pathways are actually much more complex and much more widespread within the brain,” Magee told CNN.

“Music seems to find re-routed paths and that is why it is such a useful tool in terms of helping people with different kinds of brain damage because it can help to find new pathways in terms of brain functioning.”

Researchers in Finland have demonstrated that listening to music for several hours a day can enhance the rehabilitation of stroke patients.

In another study, stroke patients who were taught to play the piano or drums made speedier progress in their general recovery than patients who received only traditional therapy.

At Colorado State University, researchers have used musical and rhythmic cues as an effective tool to improve the movement and balance of Parkinson’s disease sufferers and those with other degenerative diseases.

Melodic Intonation Therapy, in which musical exercises are used to improve speech, has proved an effective treatment for patients with aphasia, a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain responsible for language.

Musical memories also seem to be more resilient to neural degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, enabling therapists to use familiar tunes to cue memories which might otherwise have been lost.

One American World War II veteran whose dementia was so severe he couldn’t remember his own name and would barely acknowledge his own wife was brought alive through ballroom dancing and the music of Frank Sinatra, the sufferer still able to lead his wife through the foxtrot as if it was the 1940s.

The power of music to enhance moods and emotions has long been harnessed by psychologists, but, as Dr. Lauren Stewart, director of a recently established course in Music, Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths University of London told CNN, “recent advances in neuroscience and brain imaging technology are now radically transforming conventional music therapy into a more rigorous and research-based clinical practice.”

Professor Michael Thaut of Colorado State University’s Center for Biomedical Research in Music, who has helped pioneer a new research-based approach known as Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT), says recent developments amount to a “paradigm shift.”

“Therapists in all fields have been doing things for decades; now they’re trying to figure out the research to support their work,” Thaut told CNN. “NMT started as a science and now it’s turning into a clinical field. And that’s very exciting.”

For now NMT remains on the fringes of standard neurological rehabilitation. But Magee believes its application and a general move away from psychoanalytical approaches dominant in the past, could bring music therapy towards the mainstream and make it an ever more effective tool.

“We are now starting to see the evidence for why we see things work. That also means we can fine tune what we do because we understand more about the neurological processing behind it,” she said.

“But we’re still at the point where we need to build the evidence base and translate that evidence base into practice so we can convince funders that music therapy is an important part of rehab practice.”

For the members of Sing For Joy however, the proof of the therapeutic power of music is already self-evident. “There is something about coming together and making a communal sound,” said Sarah Benton. “There is nothing like it and it’s wonderful.”

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10 Essential Health Tips

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on March 28, 2009

10 Essential Health Tips 
(The Basics to Practice Every Day)


“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.”

Arabian Proverb

1. Move More
Make it a daily challenge to find ways to move your body. Climb stairs if given a choice between that and escalators or elevators. Walk your dog; chase your kids; toss balls with friends, mow the lawn. Anything that moves your limbs is not only a fitness tool, it’s a stress buster. Think ‘move’ in small increments of time. It doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym or a 45-minute aerobic dance class or tai chi or kickboxing. But that’s great when you’re up to it. Meanwhile, move more. Thought for the day: Cha, Cha, Cha…. Then do it!

2. Cut Fat
Avoid the obvious such as fried foods, burgers and other fatty meats (i.e. pork, bacon, ham, salami, ribs and sausage). Dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, milk and cream should be eaten in low fat versions. Nuts and sandwich meats, mayonnaise, margarine, butter and sauces should be eaten in limited amounts. Most are available in lower fat versions such as substitute butter, fat free cheeses and mayonnaise. Thought for the day: Lean, mean, fat-burning machine…. Then be one!

3. Quit Smoking 
The jury is definitely in on this verdict. Ever since 1960 when the Surgeon General announced that smoking was harmful to your health, Americans have been reducing their use of tobacco products that kill. Just recently, we’ve seen a surge in smoking in adolescents and teens. Could it be the Hollywood influence? It seems the stars in every movie of late smoke cigarettes. Beware. Warn your children of the false romance or ‘tough guy’ stance of Hollywood smokers. Thought for the day: Give up just one cigarette…. the next one.

4. Reduce Stress 
Easier said than done, stress busters come in many forms. Some techniques recommended by experts are to think positive thoughts. Spend 30 minutes a day doing something you like. (i.e.,Soak in a hot tub; walk on the beach or in a park; read a good book; visit a friend; play with your dog; listen to soothing music; watch a funny movie. Get a massage, a facial or a haircut. Meditate. Count to ten before losing your temper or getting aggravated. Avoid difficult people when possible. Thought for the day: When seeing red, think pink clouds….then float on them. 

5. Protect Yourself from Pollution 
If you can’t live in a smog-free environment, at least avoid smoke-filled rooms, high traffic areas, breathing in highway fumes and exercising near busy thoroughfares. Exercise outside when the smog rating is low. Exercise indoors in air conditioning when air quality is good. Plant lots of shrubbery in your yard. It’s a good pollution and dirt from the street deterrent. Thought for the day: ‘Smoke gets in your eyes’…and your mouth, and your nose and your lungs as do pollutants….hum the tune daily.

6. Wear Your Seat Belt
Statistics show that seat belts add to longevity and help alleviate potential injuries in car crashes. Thought for the day: Buckle down and buckle up.

7. Floss Your Teeth
Recent studies make a direct connection between longevity and teeth flossing. Nobody knows exactly why. Perhaps it’s because people who floss tend to be more health conscious than people who don’t? Thought for the day: Floss and be your body’s boss.

8. Avoid Excessive Drinking 
While recent studies show a glass of wine or one drink a day (two for men) can help protect against heart disease, more than that can cause other health problems such as liver and kidney disease and cancer. Thought for the day: A jug of wine should last a long time.

9. Keep a Positive Mental Outlook 
There’s a definitive connection between living well and healthfully and having a cheerful outlook on life. Thought for the day: You can’t be unhappy when you’re smiling or singing. 

10. Choose Your Parents Well 
The link between genetics and health is a powerful one. But just because one or both of your parents died young in ill health doesn’t mean you cannot counteract the genetic pool handed you. Thought for the day: Follow these basic tips for healthy living and you can better control your own destiny.

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Quote : About the Future

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on March 27, 2009

“Never let the future disturb you.
You will meet it, if you have to,
with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

 Marcus Aurelius

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Quote on Happiness

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on March 23, 2009


Happiness is not a goal; it’s the natural by product of a purpose-driven life. If you have a life full of purpose, you will feel content and feel good about yourself.”


-Rabbi Shmuley Boteach


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