Stroke Recovery

A stroke is a brain injury that happens when the blood supply to the brain is temporarily blocked, such as through a blood clot. People can be affected very differently when they have had a stroke, depending on the part of the brain that has sustained the injury. Stroke survivors may have difficulty with speech and language (aphasia), swallowing (dysphasia), mobility and balance, memory, and emotional responses. After the stroke event, the brain works to build new neuropathways to actively compensate for the damage. In the first three months following the stroke the brain is at its most plastic, and this is when the fastest improvements will occur. Rehabilitation is targeted for the individual’s needs and usually includes a team of occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, and speech and language therapists. Music therapy can also form part of the stroke survivor’s rehabilitation in order to help speech and movement.

Research (linked below) has shown that singing can be an effective tool in the rehabilitation of stroke survivors. Some neurorehabilitation wards will have a trained music therapist and there are also specialist singing groups for stroke survivors established outwith the hospital in wider communities. Singing can help in the rehabilitation of speech and language, where singing accesses a different part of the brain than speaking. Therefore, some people with aphasia find that singing can help them to communicate more effectively than speaking.

Strokes can also have psychosocial impacts on individuals resulting in a loss of confidence, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Research has illustrated that singing together in groups that are specifically aimed at stroke survivors can foster peer support and positive emotional experiences that help to alleviate some psychosocial impacts.

The Stroke Association provides accessible information on for anyone who might be effected and includes information on support groups and advice for carers.

Open Access Research on Singing and Stroke recovery

Johnson, J. K. (2015) Some early cases of aphasia and the capacity to sing. Progress in Brain Research. 26.

Martínez-Molina, N, Siponkoski, S-T, Pitkäniemi, A, et al.  (2022) Neuroanatomical correlates of speech and singing production in chronic post-stroke aphasia, Brain Communications, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2022, fcac001,

Stahl B and Kotz SA (2014) Facing the music: three issues in current research on singing and aphasia. Front. Psychol. 5:1033. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01033.

Tarrant M, Carter M, Dean SG, et al. (2021) Singing for people with aphasia (SPA): results of a pilot feasibility randomised controlled trial of a group singing intervention investigating acceptability and feasibility. BMJ Open 11:e040544. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040544.

Tarrant M, Lamont RA, Carter M, Dean SG, Spicer S, Sanders A, Calitri R. (2021) Measurement of Shared Social Identity in Singing Groups for People With Aphasia. Front Psychol. 17;12:669899. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.669899. PMID: 34220642; PMCID: PMC8248786.

There is also restricted-access research in this area:

Laura Fogg-Rogers, Stephen Buetow, Alison Talmage, Clare M. McCann, Sylvia H. S. Leão, Lynette Tippett, Joan Leung, Kathryn M. McPherson & Suzanne C. Purdy (2016) Choral singing therapy following stroke or Parkinson’s disease: an exploration of participants’ experiences, Disability and Rehabilitation, 38:10, 952-962, DOI: 10.3109/09638288.2015.1068875

Särkämö , T (2020) , Singing for rehabilitation: Efficacy of singing-based interventions in major ageing-related neurological disorders. In R Heydon , D Fancourt & A J Cohen (eds) , Routledge Companion to Interdisciplinary Studies in Singing, Volume III : Wellbeing . Routledge , New York , pp. 98-108 .

Tamplin, Jeanette et al. (2013) ‘“Stroke a Chord”: The Effect of Singing in a Community Choir on Mood and Social Engagement for People Living with Aphasia Following a Stroke’. NeuroRehabilitation 32: 4. 929 – 941. doi: 10.3233/NRE-130916.

Thaut, M. Hoemberg, V. (eds.) (2016) Handbook of Neurologic Music Therapy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thaut, M. (2013) Rhythm, Music, and the Brain: Scientific Foundations and Clinical Applications. New York, London; Routledge.

Sarah J. Wilson, Kate Parsons, David C. Reutens (2006) Preserved Singing in Aphasia: A Case Study of the Efficacy of Melodic Intonation Therapy. Music Perception 24:1, pp.23–36. doi: