Background There is evidence that participation in performing arts brings psychosocial benefits in the general population. In recent years, there has been substantial interest in the potential therapeutic benefits of performing arts for people with chronic neurological conditions. A lack of effective evidence synthesis, however, made it difficult to evaluate the evidence base and future research directions. We conducted the first systematic review of the potential benefit of singing for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) on speech, communication, cognition, motor function and quality of life outcomes. Here, we present an updated version of this systematic review up to January 2017.
Methods Seven standard academic health bibliographic databases, including MEDLINE and EMBASE, were searched up to January 2017 using MeSH terms and keywords corresponding to (Parkinson’s disease AND (Singing OR Music OR Music therapy). Supplementary searches were also conducted in Google Scholar and bibliographies of relevant articles. We considered full-text original articles assessing the potential benefit of singing for human participants with clinically diagnosed PD on speech impairment, functional communication, cognitive status, motor function or quality of life using any appropriate quantitative design. Narrative synthesis was conducted using standard forms. Proportionate second review was conducted. Study quality was assessed using the Threats to Validity tool.
Results A total of 490 unique records were identified, 30 full-text publications were screened and eight studies included in the review. All eight studies assessed the impact of singing on speech, of which six found evidence of benefit. Two studies assessed quality of life, one finding evidence of benefit. One study assessed functional communication and found no evidence of benefit. No studies assessed cognitive or motor function. One study was assessed at low risk of bias, one at medium risk of bias and six at high risk of bias.
Conclusion Included studies provide evidence that singing benefits the speech of people with PD. However, evidence is limited with regard to wider benefits, especially those of a psychosocial nature such as functional communication and quality of life, which are areas of high important to people with PD. A key limitation of our review is that most studies were at high risk of bias. Groups such as Parkinson’s UK run choirs for people with PD – this seems a good idea and has some evidence base, but further more rigorous studies are required to provide a stronger evidence base to support greater healthcare provider-community organisation partnerships.
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