Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rhythm Builds Order in Brain-Damaged Children

Rhythm Builds Order in Brain-Damaged Children. Author(s): George A. Giacobbe Source: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 58, No. 8, Music in Special Education (Apr., 1972), pp. 40 -43 Published by: MENC: The National Association for Music Education Stable URL: Accessed: 11/11/2008 18:05

In this article, Giacobbe first offers a palette of definitions or what is considered a brain injury; from internal or biological disorders to injury caused by the individual’s environment, development, and traumatic brain injury, there is a wide range of disorders covered. Examples of what would be biological disorders would be distractibility disorders like ADHD and the like, or perseverative disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The author then devotes a section to explain the importance of rhythm for humans in an evolutionary sense. The rhythm between day and night, the seasons, tides, and migratory patterns of animals, among others are given to illustrate how we are physically governed and surrounded by rhythm. This helps to emphasize the point rhythm helps to give us a sense of order and structure. This is an important part of why those living with a disorder may improve some area of function by doing exercises using rhythm.

With regard to communication, Giacobbe mentions Goodglass’ study of aphasics. People who have lost the ability to speak, yet can sing a song. Roughly, the author of this study found that some aphasic people could communicate using songs – suggesting that problems in the brain regarding language can be solved by the area of the brain governing music.My experience in this area is such that I suffered a moderate brain injury while I was in Norway as an exchange student. I noticed that afterwards, I could not tell you the way home from school, but I would manage by following cues as they came up. At the time, I was playing drums in a rock band, and I had no trouble remembering the sequence of songs because like the walk home from school, there were cues I could follow along the way. However, I often forgot where I put the drums, etc.


Lee Bartel said...

Seems like perhaps a rather shallow article - MENC is not known for great depth unfortunately. However, the observations you make about braain injury and memory and music is interesting. Different parts of the brain are involved in different functions. So one loss is in isolation from another. But what does this say about the potential of music? I am not sure from what you have said about this article.

Lee Bartel said...

Just one other observation. Be aware that there has been considerable progress in research since 1972 when this article was written.

devon said...

Thank you Lee.

I realize this is an ancient article. I need to find more recent discussion and research on brain injury and music.

I should have elaborated furthur in my original blog about how damaged brains likely find ways to solve problems by using other parts of the brain - as in brain/neuro-plasticity.

Put simply, when one circuit or area of a brain is damaged, the brain changes and assigns the function to another area of the brain that is still capable of functioning.

For my experience - with regard to not knowing at the outset the way home from school - perhaps my brain lost for a time the ability to view the map of the way home, but it could remember little chunks and cues that I could recall along the way and find my way home by connecting the dots as opposed to seeing the entire line from point A to point B.

I hope that clarifies my thought processes from the blog.

Adam Golding said...

One has to be careful in these discussions about the 'pervasiveness' of rhythm. In the various Grove articles relating to rhythm they mention the lack of consensus as to what 'rhythm' should mean--in particular pointing out that rhythm and form are hard to distinguish, and some people have collapsed them.

One proposal has been to treat rhythms as only temporal patterns less than about 2 seconds (long enough to hold in working memory) but this would exclude things like 'the rhythm of day and night' from being rhythms.

As with all theoretical terminology, the end goal needs to be choose the terms that let us make the most theoretical generalizations the most easily and the most accurately, (to 'carve nature at its joints', as Plato would say) and it's still an open question how to draw the boundaries of concepts like 'rhythm', 'temporal pattern', 'form' and so on in this way.