Music Therapy for Persons with Parkinson’s Disease

Elizabeth Stegemöller is an assistant professor in kinesiology researching how music facilitates movement in people with neurological disorders. Stegemöller is a board certified music therapist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her research has demonstrated that singing training can significantly improve swallowing and respiratory functions, often major impairments in people with Parkinson’s disease. This research has resulted in two outreach programs in Ames, IA: a singing group and a music and movement group.

Each program meets for one hour once a week.

Singing in Parkinson's Disease

A singing group for people with Parkinson's Disease meets on Wednesdays from 3-4pm at the First Baptist Church of Ames, 200 Lynn Ave.

Music and Movement in Parkinson's Disease

An exercise group for people with Parkinson's Disease meets on Tuesdays from 4-5pm at the First Baptist Church of Ames, 200 Lynn Ave.

The singing program started during Stegemöller’s original research, and continued after participants started to statistically see improvements. The program brings together the original study participants and several other people with Parkinson’s to sing, “You Are My Sunshine” which helps them talk louder and hold out their breath.

The dance program uses musical cues to help people with Parkinson’s who have difficulty with things such as rigidity, range of motion, big forceful movements, balance, and posture. Stegemöller, Ann Smiley-Oyen, an assistant professor in kinesiology, and 14 student volunteers lead the class. The first part focuses on strength exercises while the second is a ballroom dance lesson (taught by Smiley-Oyen).