A few weeks ago ABC's 20/20 with Diane Sawyer aired an inspirational segment on Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, who in January 2011 suffered from a near-fatal shooting, leaving her in critical condition for several weeks and severely damaging her brain. In the special, Diane Sawyer interviews Giffords for the first time since her injury, and showcases Giffords' amazing spirit, determination and courage.
Due to the injuries Giffords had suffered from receiving a bullet point blank to the head, she was afflicted with aphasia, the inability to speak due to damage to the linguistic pathways in the brain. Yet in the 11 months since the shooting, she has made remarkable progress, and has regained much of her speech and motor skills, a triumph that can be attributed in part to music therapy.
The bullet had mostly damaged the left side of Giffords' brain, the part that controls speech. The words were there, but she had to find a different route to access them. It was through song that she was able to attach rhythm and melody to words, and thus create a new neural pathway to language. You might wonder how music accomplishes this. According to neurologist and best-selling author, Oliver Sacks, "Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music." This is because music is able to activate visual, motor, coordination and emotion centers in both hemispheres of the brain. Thus one can use music to retrain the brain in order to compensate for brain damage.