In March 2018 I was invited to join Liz and Ellen on their Redshift Radio show: Sunny Side Up to talk about singing and Tourettes.
I have personally never worked with a student who has Tourettes (yet!), but I have worked with actors and singers in a professional capacity who have been diagnosed.
Being invited to speak publicly prompted me to research a little about the condition, so I knew at least a little what I was talking about across the airwaves! Ellen knew much more about the condition as she has Tourettes herself.
Tourettes is a neurodevelopment disorder characterised by physical and verbal tics. It was first diagnosed in the late 1800s by Georges Gilles de Tourette. There is no known cure or treatment but relievement of symptoms may be found in focus based activity such as video games, athletics and musical engagement. That is to say – the patient must be engaged in actively making the music – not just listening to it.
So far, little evidence has been discovered to support this but there are a lot of anecdotal reports that suggests this to be true.
One recent study (Brown, 2016) asked 183 musical participants to what extent they experienced changes in their symptoms when playing music. 1 = symptoms got worse 5 = symptoms improved. The mean response was 4.45 showing they experienced a great deal of relief.
Singing does not only bring relief to those with Tourettes. In fact there are many ways in which singing is good for our health. Here are just a few:
- Lowers stress by decreasing cortisol
- Strengthens the immune system (University of Frankfurt)
- Improves lung health
- Stimulates circulation
- Improves posture
- Strengthens throat and palette – stopping snoring!
- Releases endorphins, so it is an anti-depressant
- Decreases tourettes symptoms
- Improves mental alertness – “singing for the brain” has been especially effective for those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Boosts confidence
- It is a social activity – a way to make friends
- Boosts development in language(s), learning and counting
- Gives us an appreciation of other singers
I personally think that singing also satiates our own primal instinct to make noise, be together in a lush vocal oneness, creating harmonies with one another and feeling the pounding, satisfying rhythm of a unanimous musical heartbeat. (But I am probably biased!)
Remember that singing and music is absolutely for everyone. Sing in the shower, sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush, sing in the car, sing in a choir, sing with friends, sing on the karaoke machine, sing at open mic or sing professionally. However you choose to enjoy music in your life, let it help keep you happy and healthy. Here’s a song we played on the breakfast show – it yields some rather good advice from the Andrew’s Sisters 🙂
Brown, William Christopher Phd (2016) Influence of musical engagement on symptoms of Tourettes disorder. University of South Florida