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Singing groups to raise voices for Parkinson’s research

People with Parkinson’s disease will lend their voices to a new research project that aims to better the lives of those living with the condition.

The 6-month project will evaluate whether singing can help improve quality of life, wellbeing and communication for people with Parkinson’s.

The program at the heart of the research, called Sing to Beat Parkinson’s, was developed in the UK by the Canterbury Cantata Trust, and Griffith University is trialling the project in Australia, China and South Korea.

Project director professor Donald Stewart from Griffith’s Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre said the research will provide evidence to show if group singing can be a beneficial adjunct therapy for people with Parkinson’s.

Griffith research fellow and music therapist Dr Yoon Irons said she is a firm believer that music can change lives. “When you sing, it engages your breathing, your vocal cords, your facial muscles and memory – so many areas of the brain are being stimulated and reconnected,” Irons said.

Study participants, including people with Parkinson’s and their carers, will join weekly singing groups at South Bank and North Lakes.

Dr Irene Bartlett, who has mentored graduates like Dami Im and Katie Noonan, will lead the South Bank singing group.

Bartlett said she will ensure the troupe is singing songs that the participants enjoy and will ask them to share their memories of each piece of music. “We want to build that sense of community, as people can become isolated with Parkinson’s,” she said.

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