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Think: Teaching Parkinson's Patients To Talk

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People with Parkinson’s Disease struggle with movements that used to be automatic. That includes walking, blinking and speaking. Today on Think, a speech-language pathologist talked to Krys Boyd about a North Texas program that’s helping Parkinson’s patients regain the ability to speak.

Samatha Elandary says problems for Parkinson’s patients start with a shortage of dopamine in the brain.

“In terms of the voice, they are breathing more shallowly," she said. "And when they do that, what ends up happening is their voice becomes very soft. And it can be raspy, and they’re not moving their tongue and lips as much, so their articulation is not as clear.”

Elandary teaches participants in the Parkinson Voice Project to speak with intent.

“So when they use intent … they take deeper breaths, they increase their volume, they move their tongue and lips more so their articulation is better.”

The results can be profound. Here’s a 75-year-old patient speaking with a therapist before treatment:

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Here’s the same patient after completing the program.

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Parkinson’s is one of the few neurological disorders that responds to exercise. That’s because the disease interrupts the connection to the muscles, but the muscles aren’t weakened. They just need to be retrained.

Think re-airs tonight at 9, or find the podcast at kera.org/think.
 

Stephen Becker is senior producer of the Think show , which airs on more than 25 stations across Texas and beyond. Prior to joining the Think team in 2013, as part of the Art&Seek team, Stephen produced radio and digital stories and hosted "The Big Screen" — a weekly radio segment about North Texas film — with Chris Vognar. His 2011 story about the history of eight-track tapes was featured nationally on NPR's All Things Considered. His works has been recognized with numerous state and national awards.