Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ella Mae sings “An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley – YOUTUBE video

Ella Mae sings “An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley – YOUTUBE video


This is a five-and-a-half minute YouTube video posted on July 2013, with more than 7 million views. The clip shows Ella Mae, a 20 month-old girl, singing Elvis Presley's version of 'An American Trilogy' in the back seat of her dad's car.
To capture the performance, Ella´s father set up a camera on the back seat and focused it on the toddler's rear-facing car seat. Throughout the video Ella tries to keep the interaction with her father, calling “daddy” before and during her cover song, while enthusiastically raising her both arms, as he frequently answers her back.
During her rendition, Ella tries to sing, mimicking the pitch and melodic contour of the song, even though she is not old enough to pronounce some of the words. She also bobs her head and hand to the exact beat, demonstrating great timing. At minute 4:20 to 4:37 Ella surprisingly reveals herself as an orchestra conductor.
Nevertheless, the most interesting scene is the way she conveys emotions while singing the song´s chorus, through stirring facial expressions and movements. In those moments she is totally absorbed by music, truly enjoying and feeling it, without any need to interact with her daddy. This is Ella Mae entertaining us and capturing our attention and admiration!


The first fact that I noticed is how happy Ella feels in her father´s car. It seems to be an intimate father-daughter relationship, favoring a caring and encouraging context for learning and development. And listening is learning! When children are exposed to music, even passive listening to music (like in the car), they incorporate an implicit knowledge of tonality, rhythmic form and musical structure of their own culture.  As we can see in the video, when the music starts to play, it appears to be that Ella is already familiar with Elvis´ repertoire, as a result of being exposed to her father´s musical selection and preferences. It is noteworthy that music has an impact even before the child is born. Some studies indicate that fetuses can hear and react to sound by moving (1, 2).

Ella is a 20 month old toddler who is developing in a variety of domains, including music. While listening to Elvis’ song, she uses her singing voice, elongating vowels in a musical way, and moves her hand rhythmically as a conductor. Sometimes, when the music is more arousing and emotional, Ella shows facial expression of pure enjoyment and pleasure.

According to Robert Jourdain (3), melodic contour is child´s first musical competence. The author further outlines that “the child will repeat the same melodic figure again and again, holding its overall contour, but distorting the intervals between tones by stretching them wide during one repetition, then flattening them the next”. In the second year of life, infants´ melodies are unstable as toddlers lack strong understanding of the individual tones that constitute melodies. Consequently, they have difficulties in reproducing melodies. First children need to learn how to isolate sounds, make categorizations and perceive distinct pitches.  
At the perception level, Gestalt principles determine that music´s features are analyzed and grouped according to their similarity, proximity, good continuation, and common fate, in order to create a coherent and meaningful “sound object” (i.e., a mental representation of physical sound). On the other hand, there is also a Top-down processing in which the perception can be modulated by listener´s experience, knowledge, intentions and selective attention in interaction with the listening context (4).

How can we explain Ella´s facial expressions of musical enjoyment while singing?
First, we can ponder that those behaviors could have been learned previously by watching and imitating Elvis. Second, this song was familiar to Ella; and studies suggest that familiarity with a particular piece of music increases subject´s liking for it (5). By actively listening to familiar songs, episodic memory evokes what has been storage and expectation rises. As mentioned by Robert Jourdain, the listener “awaits the exact replication of the song, its exact notes and exact beats. Music generates emotion by setting up anticipations and then fulfilling them. Pleasure is the fulfillment of anticipation”. Ella Mae knew the song and could predict what followed in the music, resulting in anticipatory arousal.

In conclusion, children are born with innate musical abilities (6, 7), but infant musicality will be further developed through parental musical involvement and encouragement. Music activities in infancy are very important to baby´s brain as it will develop other domains as language, abstract thought and working memory system.


(1)     S. N. Graven and J.V. Browne, Sensory development in the fetus, neonate and infant: introduction and overview. Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews, 8 (2008)  169-172
(3)     R. Jourdain, “Music, The Brain, And Ecstacy: How Music Captures Our Imagination”, Harper Perennial, New York, NY, (1997)
(4)     C. Alain and L. J. Bernstein, From sounds to meaning: the role of attention during auditory scene analysis, Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery, 16 (2008) 485-489
(5)     I. Peretz, D. Gaudreau, A.M. Bonnel, Exposure effects on music preference and recognition, Memory and Cognition, 26 (1998) 884-902
(6)     S. E. Trehub, Musical predispositions in infancy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 930 (2001) 1-16.
(7)     L. Gooding, and J.M. Standley, Musical Development and Learning Characteristics of Students: A Compilation of Key Points From the Research Literature Organized by Age, Applications of Research in Music Education, 30 (2011) 32-45

Neurologic Music Therapy in Stroke Rehabilitation

Thaut, M.H., & McIntosh, G.C. (2014). Neurologic music therapy in stroke rehabilitation. Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports Online Journal, 2(2), 106-113.


Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT), established as a new model for music in medicine based on scientific research findings, is proving to be effective in stroke rehabilitation in speech/language, cognitive, and sensorimotor domains. It consists of standardized clinical interventions derived from structures and patterns in music that engage the brain in ways that can be translated to nonmusical therapeutic contexts. Research suggests that music can stimulate complex sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective processes, and that these processes can be transferred to functional therapeutic applications. Thaut states that “the brain that engages in music is changed by engaging in music,” alluding to the reciprocal relationship of music and brain function, and the role of music training in facilitating the experience-driven plasticity that supports rehabilitative gains. According to Thaut, new insights generated by neuroscience research in music have contributed to a paradigm shift from a social science, interpretative model to a perceptual, neuroscientific model of music therapy.

Several studies conducted since the mid-1990s, precipitated by early evidence of the complex interactions between auditory and motor systems, have demonstrated that rhythmic entrainment of motor function is instrumental in the recovery of movement in patients following a stroke. Basic gait parameters, including velocity, step cadence, and stride symmetry improve with rhythmic cuing, leading to more efficient motor unit recruitment. By entraining to the rhythmic period, motor movement can be scaled and mapped to fit the duration of the rhythmic cue. While upper limb movement is not intrinsically rhythmic, NMT techniques have been developed that turn functional movement involving the upper body into patterns cued by auditory stimuli. Patterned Sensory Enhancement (PSE) translates temporal, spatial and force-dynamic movement components into sound patterns used to enhance motor control, while Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance (TIMP) engages clients in practicing functional movement using musical instruments. Studies have demonstrated improvements including increased range of motion, and reduced variability of movement during forward reaching.

Music has been used in the recovery of speech function since the early 1970s, when “melodic intonation therapy” (MIT) was developed to support patients recovering from Broca’s aphasia. Though a significant amount of research has been conducted supporting its efficacy, much of it has involved small sample sizes due to difficulties in finding homogenous study samples for aphasia research. Neuroimaging has, however, provided evidence of neuroplasticity induced by MIT, rerouting speech production from the damaged left hemisphere to the homologous, language-capable region of the right hemisphere.

Music stimulation has also been used successfully to overcome visual neglect resulting from lesions in the right hemisphere following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Musical neglect training (MNT) is a standardized NMT technique that addresses hemispatial neglect using performance on instruments spatially configured to focus attention of the unattended visual field. Chord progressions and melodic patterns (e.g., on a xylophone with tone bars reversed to ascend from right to left) move the patient’s attention and movement progressively into the neglected visual field.

NMT has been developed as a result of both basic and clinical research into music and the brain, establishing evidence-based techniques to support rehabilitation following impairment of function due to neurologic disorders such as stroke. Research evidence supports the efficacy of NMT interventions in the areas of motor, speech/language, and cognitive rehabilitation.


NMT is a significant new model for music therapy, drawing on the rich findings from neuroscientific research and using these findings to develop interventions to support clients undergoing rehabilitation. Other models of music therapy have successfully adopted a psychotherapeutic approach, yet with the understandings gleaned in the past twenty years with respect to music and the brain, it is important that this knowledge be incorporated in clinical settings using music therapy to support clients suffering from neurologic disorders. NMT provides evidence-based techniques which are attractive to medical personnel seeking a scientific basis for interventions, and to medical systems seeking to use research findings to justify clinical expenditures. Patients benefit when music is brought into often sterile hospital environments, not only in terms of the functional therapeutic gains that are made, but also in having access to a creative, expressive medium, which is critical for social-emotional wellbeing following a catastrophic injury.

Music therapists have a pivotal role to play in recognizing the needs of the whole person, establishing clinical goals, and implementing interventions that promote client recovery. NMT provides training and techniques that enable music therapists to use music to address functional therapeutic aims. It is for this reason that Thaut has claimed a paradigm shift from social science to neuroscience as a model for music therapy. Yet music is an important medium for providing social-emotional support as well, and the music therapist is an important facilitator in this regard. Cultural factors also need to be considered in supporting client well-being. Doidge notes the reciprocal role between culture and the brain in neuroplasticity, stating that “not only does the brain shape culture, culture shapes the brain” (2007, p. 287). The music therapist must be skilled in drawing on a variety of culturally appropriate, clinical resources that address functional and psychotherapeutic aims in accordance with client need. Thaut has made a significant contribution to the field of music therapy, particularly in the area of rehabilitation, work which will no doubt continue to evolve as new insights emerge from both research and practice. As music’s multimodal effects can be used to support the whole person, it will be important for music therapists, in the context of a holistic perspective, to continue to develop their clinical skills in the service of their clients, while at the same time remaining current with respect to new research developments.        


Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: Stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York, NY: Penguin Books Ltd.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Music Lessons Enhance IQ- Glen Schellenberg

Schellenberg, E. G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological Science, 15(8), 511–4.

The link between music and intelligence has been a very popular topic in research in the past number of years.  In this study, Glenn Schellenberg (U of T professor) focuses on whether music lessons offer skills that extend to non-musical areas of cognition.  His participants included 132 children (after 12 dropped out), aged 6 years old, who were split into four different groups.  Two experimental groups received keyboard lessons or Kodály voices lessons for a year, while two control groups received either drama lessons or no lessons. The lessons were taught for 36 weeks over one school year.  At the beginning and the end of the study, children were tested on intelligence using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children- Third Edition (WISC-III), the most widely used test of intelligence in childhood. They were also tested for educational achievement and social functioning with various other tests.
Results of the study indicated that those who received music lessons over the course of the year had a significant increase in IQ compared to those who received no training, or training in a non-music program (drama). Although it was significant statistically, the actual IQ point difference was small. Schellenberg explains the association between music lessons and IQ, saying “it is well established that simple attendance in school raises IQ and that instruction in school is particularly effective when class sizes are small. Music lessons, taught individually or in small groups, may provide additional boosts in IQ because they are like school but still enjoyable.”
The music groups also had a bigger increase in academic achievement over the drama lessons or no lessons groups. An interesting result that Schellenberg did not anticipate, is that the children who received drama lessons had a bigger increase in social skills than the musically trained group.


            What I like about this study is that the music training variable is isolated, making the results more meaningful than if Schellenberg had tested children who already had music training against those with none.   Because the children were all randomly assigned, there is a higher chance that music training was the reason the children had higher IQ at the end of the year. 
            I find it interesting that out of the children who received music lessons, those who specifically had Kodály voice lessons had even higher IQ than the children who took keyboard lessons. Also the fact that the dropout rate among the participants was the highest out of the keyboard lessons group. As a private music teacher who has taught 6-year-olds before, I can say that it takes a tremendous amount of planning to engage a 6-year-old in a private music lesson. Even then, the chances of a young child getting bored or agitated in their lessons is extremely high, so this dropout rate does not surprise me. In contrast, the Kodály approach is a very embodied approach to music education that gets the children engaged for the full lesson. It makes sense that these children had the highest improvement in IQ between the four groups, and also supports having music education present in the school system. 

            Another interesting comparison I’d like to comment on is the difference between the kids in Kodály music lessons and the kids in drama lessons.  I wonder why the kids in Kodaly averaged 2.9 points higher than the kids in drama on the IQ scale, when the two programs are very similar. In addition to this, drama lessons had favourable effects on social behaviour that were not evident in the music group, so one would think that this would favor the children’s IQ scores against those in music, but apparently not so.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The influence of relaxation music on abstract visual short term memory retrieval task


The study is focused on highlighting the influence of relaxation music on correct and incorrect visual memory retrieval process using abstract figures. The method Chraif used were 68 undergraduate students, aged between 19 and 23 years old. Chraif explains that visual short term memory is distinct from the long-term by quickly creating representations, a variety of images that are stored for a period of 20-50 ms/item. Visual thresholds relate to the period in which visual analyzer can consciously perceive visual stimuli received with specialized receptors factors influencing the visual differential threshold are lighting the eye in the previous time. Musicians can store entire repertoire, complex songs to support the whole concert. Chraif's hypotheses was:

- The relaxation music has a statistically significant influence on differences between incorrect and correct answers for visual memory retrieval process using abstract figures.
- The relaxation music has a statistically significant influence on incorrect answers for visual memory retrieval process using abstract figures.
- The relaxation music has a statistically significant influence on correct answers for visual memory retrieval process using abstract figures.

The overall results highlight that the sum of incorrect "yes" answers were statistically significant lower for the experimental group expose to relaxation music than the control group. Chraif's conclusion was that listening to relaxation music does not have a significant effect in increasing the number of incorrect abstract form recognition stimuli in visual abstract forms memory retrieval as difference between the correct and incorrect answers/scores. This research proves that relaxation music has an important effect in increasing the correct answers to stimuli in visual recognition and could be important stimuli for increasing performances in in all the activities based on abstract visual memory recognition tasks during abstract forms retrieval process.


This research is interesting in that listening to relaxation music does not have a significant effect in increasing the number of incorrect abstract form recognition stimuli in visual abstract forms memory retrieval as difference between the correct and incorrect answers/scores. I have always thought to believe that the best way to remember facts might be to set them to music. People have long used rhymes and songs to help master vast quantities of information and I believe that listening to music creates a rhythm in our brain to assist the memorization of information in a structural manner. 

This reminds of a quote from the book "Memory in Oral Traditions" by cognitive scientist David Rubin notes, “Oral traditions depend on human memory for their preservation. If a tradition is to survive, it must be stored in one person’s memory and be passed on to another person who is also capable of storing and retelling it. All this must occur over many generations…Oral traditions must, therefore, have developed forms of organization and strategies to decrease the changes that human memory imposes on the more casual transmission of verbal material.” These strategies are tales that last for many generations and tend to describe concrete actions rather than abstract concepts. They use powerful visual images. They are sung or chanted. And they employ patterns of sound: alliteration, assonance, repetition and, most of all, rhyme. Many teachers in elementary schools are using song to help teach certain materials. This research shows that music has a significant effect in increasing the number of correct abstract form recognition. It is very useful for a wide variety of learning development theories!


Chrai, Mihaela. "The Influence of Relaxation Music on Abstract Visual Short Term Memory Retrieval Task at Young Students at Psychology." Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 127 (2014): 852 – 857. Print.

Rubin, David C. Memory in Oral Traditions the Cognitive Psychology of Epic, Ballads, and Counting-out Rhymes. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. 185. Print.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Voice Therapy Outcome in Puberphonia

Desai, Vrushali and Prasun Mishra. “Voice Therapy Outcome in Puberphonia”. Journal of Laryngology and Voice (2012), Vol. 2 (1), pp.26-29.

Puperphonia is defined as the persistence of high-pitched voice beyond the age at which voice change is expected to have occurred.[1] Those that suffer from this disorder are deemed to have an inappropriately high-pitched voice for their age and sex, and are in need of a lowering in fundamental frequency. In this research, the authors, Vrushali Desai and Prasun Mishra aimed to study the efficacy of Voice Therapy in puberphonia, hoping to validate the use of a “customized voice therapy program for patients based on comprehensive voice assessment and behavioral therapy techniques.”[2]

Their study was conducted over two years in the Department of Laryngology and Speech Therapy, at the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Centre in Pune, India. 30 male patients who had been diagnosed with puberphonia, aged between 14 and 18 years were included. Each patient had a detailed ENT evaluation and a stroboscopic evaluation, looking at the movement of the vocal folds, testing for symmetry, amplitude, glottis closure, hyperfunction, arytenoids movement, presence or absence of mucosal wave etc. Because the most common symptoms in puberphonia patients include pitch breaks, hoarseness, breathiness, lack of projection, and visible laryngeal muscle tension, the assessment included a grading according to the GRBAS (grade, roughness, breathiness, asthenia, and strain) scale. Apparently, 3 is the worst and 0 is normal.

Upon completion of their voice evaluation, the 30 patients underwent voice therapy, which included common techniques applied for lowering the pitch of the voice. Some of these were:
1. Humming while gliding down a scale
2. Phonation of vowel sounds with a glottal attack
3. Use of sounds like a cough or throat clearing in order to initiate voicing
4. Production of vocal fry
5. Manipulation of the thyroid cartilage during vowel production. Patients were taught to apply a gentle inward push on the anterior aspect of the thyroid cartilage while sustaining a vowel.
The number of sessions would depend on the patient and their implementation of techniques in their own home, but there was just the one therapy session per week, lasting between 1-4 weeks after the initial session.

The results revealed that after therapy, all 30 patients were able to eliminate symptoms; their voices lowered to a normal pitch range. Their GRBAS scale ratings were normal, showing “no perceptual evidence of breathiness and asthenia.”[3] Initially, the average fundamental frequency of a patient before therapy was 208 Hz, but following it, the frequency had dropped to an average of 105 Hz. Therefore, the research shows the effectiveness of voice therapy, and it would seem in return, achieves its goal of encouraging speech professionals to advise therapy as the primary modality for treating puberphonia.

Knowing that this affects approximately 1 in 900,000 people (Bannerjee et al. 1995), it is great to know that this is a disorder that can be treated through therapy and not by taking drugs, or undertaking surgery. However, I had my reservations about therapy as a 100% certifiable treatment, because as with many disorders, there are extreme cases where methods such as these might not work. I had to explore it further! What I discovered was that there are cases where conservative methods don’t work, and so it IS in fact advisable to resort to surgery. Interestingly enough, the first case of surgically corrected puberphonia occurred in 2000 at the department of Otolaryngology, Leicester Royal Infirmary, in Leicester, England. Further information about the surgery can be found in the Otolaryngology Online Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1 2014, in the article titled “Mutational Falsetto: A Panoramic Consideration.” Please be aware that some of the images are descriptive.

Puberphonia is a real issue for many boys (and some females), for not only does this disorder affect the quality of the voice, but also the quality of their life. First of all, there are several reasons for the development of puberphonia. These include:
·       Increased laryngeal muscle tension
·       Embarrassment of and a reluctance to accept the newly developed voice
·       Social immaturity
·       Emotional stress
·       Delayed development of secondary sexual characteristics
·       Psychogenic
·       Skipped fusion of thyroid laminae
Sadly, patients whose voices haven’t yet descended often feel bullied for their voices, harassed by their peers. These teenage boys end up being “the butt of many jokes…this ultimately results in his self-esteem and confidence taking a beating.”[4] As a result, it affects their ability to interact in social situations.

This doesn’t affect only males though. While it doesn’t reveal itself in such an obvious fashion, it also affects women. This is known as “little Girl’s Voice.” I have actually heard this voice on the subway in Toronto, and have since found it to be a developing ‘epidemic’ in todays society. I have observed a couple of current vocal trends. One is where young men and women speak on ‘glottal fry’. This is because it is deemed cool. The other is to keep this ‘cute’ sounding voice, so their voice never descends into normal range. When you hear this voice this voice for the first time, it really is shocking to hear! For this reason, I would advise anybody to go to youtube to see an example of the condition.

It is fantastic that literature is being written on the subject, that we are aware of the condition, and that there are such positive outcomes. It is important that there be solutions to destabilizing disorders such as puberphonia, and the authors have done a fantastic job in showing how voice therapy, if begun with a speech therapist early enough, can change the lives of these young boys.

Works cited:
Colton RH, Casper JK. “Understanding Voice Problems: A Physiological Perspective for Diagnosis and Treatment.” 2nd edition Williams & Wilkins, USA; 1990.

Kothandaraman, Srikamakshi and Balasubramanian Thiagarajan. “Mutational Falsetto: A Panoramic Consideration.” Otolaryngology Online Journal 2014, Volume 4, Issue 1.

[1] Colton RH, Casper JK. “Understanding Voice Problems: A Physiological Perspective for Diagnosis and Treatment.” 2nd edition Williams & Wilkins, USA; 1990. p.82
[2] Desai, Vrushali and Prasun Mishra. “Voice Therapy Outcome in Puberphonia”. Journal of Laryngology and Voice (2012), Vol. 2 (1), p.26
[3] Ibid. p.28
[4] Kothandaraman, Srikamakshi and Balasubramanian Thiagarajan. “Mutational Falsetto: A Panoramic Consideration.” Otolaryngology Online Journal 2014, Volume 4, Issue 1.