The Lingraphica Blog

Review of Melodic Intonation Therapy Studies in Persons with Aphasia

Mar 29, 2019 | by Richard Steele, PhD

Lingraphica Co-founder and Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Steele, summarizes the work of aphasia researchers at McGill University (Montréal) and Université Laval (Quebec City) who conducted a systematic review and case-control analysis of data from published articles on persons with aphasia (PWA) who received melodic intonation therapy (MIT).

The researchers focused on examining the association between presence/absence of motor-speech disorders (MSD) in study subjects vs. reports of improvements in verbal expression following completion of the music-based intervention.

The authors completed a literature review to identify 22 articles published between 1975-2017 that contained detailed subject demographics and therapeutic data, participants’ treatment activities, and reports of language production outcomes in the results sections. Presence or absence of MSD were noted from original reports or else were inferred by practical methods in those articles where such reports were absent. Regression analyses were carried out to determine relationships between evidence of speech and language outcome improvements and four factors of interest to the authors: (a) presence of MSD at intake, (b) aphasia severity at intake, (c) treatment duration in weeks, and (d) treatment intensity in hours/week.

The results draw on data from a total of 105 MIT therapy recipients. In the majority of instances, subjects engaged in singing as the primary MIT therapeutic technique. The data analyses show that two of the factors studied are associated with significant outcome improvements in speech, namely, the presence of MSD, and greater intensity of treatment; while three of the factors are associated with significant outcome improvements in language, namely, presence of MSD, greater treatment intensity, and longer treatment duration. In contrast, severity levels of aphasia appear not to be associated with significant speech or language improvements following MIT.

The authors found that, as a rule, MIT delivered benefits to persons whose aphasia co-occurred with MSD. They hypothesize that MSD may be a primary indicator for MIT not only in PWA, but in patients more generally; and they suggest study of its application to person of other etiologies who also present with MSD. Further follow-on research seems indicated.

For further reading:  A. Zumbansen, & P. Tremblay, 2018. Music-based interventions for aphasia could act through a motor-speech mechanism: a systematic review & case-control analysis of published individual participant data. Aphasiology, 33(4):466–497.