International studies have demonstrated the benefits of this exclusive human activity. Saliva movements lower cortisol levels, improve facial expression and communication in parkinsonians. However, aphasics who do not speak can sing
Long considered one of the most mysterious aspects of human life, in particular for its ability to involve us emotionally, choral singing also promotes physical well-being. In fact, more and more studies allow us to go beyond the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of singing action reported by all the singers.
Enhances the immune system and raises the mood
Singing even for just an hour has visible effects on our immune system, as shown by a study by researchers from the British Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music. The analysis of saliva samples from 193 choristers after a singing performance revealed a decrease in cortisol levels and large amounts of inflammatory cytokines. The low levels of inflammation in the body could also explain the improvement in mood caused by the practice of singing and reported by the choristers.
However, all the subjects involved in the study, published in the ECancer journal, were already music lovers and engaged in choral activities. Nevertheless, the authors write, “this study provides preliminary evidence that singing improves the mood and modulates the components of the immune system”. In particular, in the presence of oncological diseases. In fact, the choristers studied were cancer patients or their relatives and friends engaged in assistance activities, the so-called caregivers. According to the researchers, the results are therefore quite promising and suggest that singing may be useful for such patients, enhancing the immune system, greatly reducing stress and improving mood.
Singing is like yoga
By requiring regular and controlled breathing, singing regulates the activity of the so-called vagus nerve, which is involved in our emotional life and which for example affects our vocal timbre. Songs with long melodic phrases get the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga, according to the authors of a study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, which also shows the synchronization of the heartbeat of the choristers during the performance of the songs.
Facial expressions and understanding of emotions
Singing helps Parkinson’s syndrome patients with mask syndrome, also known as “Poker Face”. The progressive stiffening of the facial muscles makes these subjects friendly. The inability to show the infinite range of emotions through the face, think of the wrinkling of the forehead, the shrinking of the eyes due to the smile and their relaxation due to surprise, makes them seem erroneously cold and detached.
A static face, also incapable of reflecting the emotions of others as it naturally happens, therefore only hinders interpersonal communication and helps to disconnect these patients from the world. Researchers at the Science of Music, the Auditory Research and Technology Smart Lab at Ryerson University in Toronto, in collaboration with the Royal Conservatory of Music, have discovered that by singing together in a choir, these patients regain facial expressions and the effect lasts until to two months.
A weapon against isolation
According to a study by the University of the West of England in Bristol, conducted on aphasic patients following a stroke or Parkinson’s disease, singing in a choir can improve mood and also the condition of social isolation caused by communication difficulties. In fact, scientists explain, “people with aphasia even when they can no longer speak well, can often still sing. The areas that control language in the brain are different from those that control singing. It is truly miraculous to look at someone who has not been able to talk for months or years to start singing ».
Singing improves hearing
As we age, musicians experience less neural degradation of the sound signal and maintain a greater ability to identify the various voices and variations in sound height in noisy environments. But music education and choral singing are also beneficial for those with hearing loss. In fact, the preliminary results of Canadian researchers show, after only 10 months of singing, significant improvements in the ability to hear a conversation in a noisy environment, the discrimination of sound heights and the neural response to them, as well as improvements in attention. Even short-term interventions therefore could prove useful in case of hearing loss.
By singing regularly it is possible to slow down the process of cognitive impairment faced by patients with dementia. A group of researchers from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit of the Institute of Behavioral Sciences and the Finnish Center of Interdisciplinary Music Research of the University of Helsinki subjected 89 patients and their caregivers to singing and listening sessions for a period of 10 weeks. The practice of choral singing has improved working memory, executive functions and orientation especially in people with mild dementia and under 80 years of age, while listening to music has been associated with cognitive benefits in patients more advanced stages of the disease. Finally, both singing and listening to music have led to an improvement in mood.
In another language it is better
And if the choral activity is recommended to patients with dementia, due to the effects on memory, new studies show that singing facilitates the mnemonic learning of new texts in children. And this is true even in the case of a foreign language. This is shown by a study conducted by psychologists from the University of Western Ontario in Canada who asked a group of small Ecuadorian speakers to learn a piece in English presented as an oral poem or as a song lyrics. After two weeks of study, those who had learned it by singing, remembering more words, pronounced English better and translated it more correctly than those we had learned in the form of an oral poem. And this best performance remained up to six months away.
SOURCE: Salute della Stampa