The fifteen members of the Aphasia Chorus organized by the BU Aphasia Resource Center and MedRhythms LLC meet every Monday in preparation for their upcoming performances at Aphasia Awareness Day at the Massachusetts State House open to the public on June 25th at 11:15am. The chorus will also perform privately for the 25th Anniversary of the BU Aphasia Resource Center on June 27th. This group is not only a fun way to interact with other patients in the aphasia community, but also it helps them improve their language and cognition using the principles of Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT).
Aphasia is a neurological disorder–caused by either a stroke or a traumatic brain injury–that alters the ability to speak, read, or write. For the patients that are affected, it can be a frustrating condition, causing those people to have a difficult time recalling and speaking words, and even making it difficult to vocalize thoughts.
The chorus is organized by a dynamic team consisting of Jerome Kaplan (founder of the BU Aphasia Community Group), Anne Mironchik (professional musician completing her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology at BU in December), and Caitlin Hyatt (an NMT with MedRhythms, LLC).
Anne Mironchik is amazed by the progress of the chorus saying, “At first, it was difficult for the members to tap a steady beat in unison. She had worked with several members in other groups before chorus and had never heard them speak a full or fluent sentence, but they can do so while singing. By the end, the group was tapping in unison, singing on pitch in twopart harmony, and singing (and speaking) longer and more fluent phrases and short sentences.” Neurologic music therapy is a field that has been around for roughly 10 (or 15) years, but has became more popular after it helped Senator Gabby Giffords say her first words while recovering from her gunshot wound in 2011. The field is protocolbased, with many years of brain imaging and neuroscience research helping achieve speech/language, cognition, and sensorimotor goals. As Caitlin Hyatt says, “NMT works because music is processed in many locations in the brain, and the brain can create new pathways to access language. In short, these interventions help the patients ‘rewire’ how their brain processes language.”
Jerome sees this first annual aphasia chorus as a resounding success and hopes to see it continue into the future: “I think that music offers a medium of expression for people with aphasia that they might otherwise not have. Pending funding, the chorus will continue to offer the aphasia community a unique opportunity for empowerment and expression.”
Brian Harris, CEO
Owen McCarthy, President
BU Aphasia Resource Center Overview:
The Center evolved from the Aphasia Community Group, founded in 1990 by speechlanguage pathologist Jerome Kaplan, together with colleagues and members of a Boston VA Medical Center treatment group. After more than 16 years of monthly meetings at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the Aphasia Community Group became part of the Aphasia Resource Center at Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation: Sargent College. We opened our doors in 2006 with support from the Boston Foundation and a Sargent College alumnus donation.
The monthly meetings continued and grew. We now welcome up to 100 people to these free sessions. We also offer a variety of weekly groups for conversation, education and socializing. Each group focuses on a specific topic or modality, such as film, computers, writing or fitness. Today these groups serve up to 50 clients each week.
MedRhythms is a neurorehab company that exists to restore the lives and quality of life of loved ones, which brain injury threatens to steal each year. We do this through worldclass, life changing care for those afflicted by neurologic injury or disease, using the power of Neurologic Music Therapy.
MedRhythms focuses on this intersection between music and neuroscience providing interventions to achieve optimum outcomes in sensorimotor, speech & language, and cognitive goals in patients. NMT is used primarily for those afflicted by neurologic injury or disease, including: Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease.
MedRhythms is New England’s first neurologic music therapy company. Neurologic music therapy (NMT) first hit the world stage, when Senator Gabby Giffords was able to recover language and relearn to walk following her tragic gunshot wound to the head in 2011.
Meet the Organization:
CEO, Brian Harris: Brian has a Master’s Degree in Music Therapy and a certificate in Neurologic Music Therapy. In February, 2015, Brian received advanced training in NMT and became one of 250 NMT Fellows in the world. Brian’s career began as the first Neurologic Music Therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, specializing with their neurologic population. Fueled by witnessing the power of NMT to change lives, Brian started MedRhythms, LLC to expand the field of Neurologic Music Therapy and make these services accessible to all those who need it.
President, Owen McCarthy: Owen is the President of MedRhythms, a neurorehab startup that is contracting with hospitals to provide services to help patients recover from traumatic brain injury and stroke. Prior to joining MedRhythms, Owen he helped start, build, and fund Voxel8, a VC backed materials company that enables 3D printing of electronics. Owen has a degree in biological engineering from the University of Maine and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Prior to getting his MBA, he worked in technical sales working with manufacturing facilities in the northeast in industries ranging from paper manufacturing to power generation to food/beverage manufacturing. Additionally, Owen was selected for the Board of Visitors for the University of Maine and founded a business plan competition known as the UMaine Business Challenge.
Kathleen Howland, Board of Advisors, Technical and Clinical, Berkelee College of Music Professor Kathleen M. Howland is a certified music therapist and licensed speech language pathologist. For the past 30+ years, she has worked with a variety of clinical populations using music to enhance speech, language, cognition and movement in habilitation and rehabilitation settings. Her doctoral studies in music and cognition have informed and supported her interest in bridging the communities of science and art in order to identify best practices. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory in music therapy, neuroscience and positive psychology. She is also one of six NMTs approved to teach NMT.