CBR supports fundraiser for music therapy

Scientists from the Centre for Brain Research met Kiwi band Titanium this weekend, along with singers Anika Moa and Boh Runga.

Associate Professor Lynette Tippett, Dr Hinemoa Elder, Dr Clare McCann, Professor Suzanne Purdy, Professor Richard Faull and Alison Talmage meet the band Titanium

Associate Professor Lynette Tippett, Dr Hinemoa Elder, Dr Clare McCann, Professor Suzanne Purdy, Professor Richard Faull and Alison Talmage meet the band Titanium

The members of the SPICCATO research team were entertained by top kiwi stars, as part of a gala dinner fundraiser to help raise funds for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre (RMTC).

The SPICCATO project (funded by the Health Research Council) is investigating the benefits of CeleBRation Choir participation. The community singing group provides choral singing therapy for people with communication difficulties through brain diseases, like stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The team includes music therapist Alison Talmage, who has a joint role at the RMTC and also leads the CeleBRation Choir.

Professor Suzanne Purdy, Laura Fogg and Alison Talmage meet RMTC founders Hinewehi Moha and husband George Bradfield.

Professor Suzanne Purdy, Laura Fogg and Alison Talmage meet RMTC founders Hinewehi Mohi and husband George Bradfield.

The RMTC was established in 2004 by singer Hinewehi Mohi, whose daughter Hineraukatauri has cerebral palsy. After experiencing the benefits of music in the UK, Hinewehi turned to the New Zealand music industry to support her goal of establishing music therapy in New Zealand, helping children with developmental and learning difficulties.

The RMTC now supports hundreds of children each year, and is also starting to work with adults in conjunction with Music Therapy New Zealand. The CeleBRation Choir researchers are also keen to develop the benefits of music therapy for people with brain disease.

Overall the star-filled evening raised approximately $185,000 for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.

CeleBRation Choir Christmas Concert


If you are feeling in need of a Christmas-spirit booster, or if you just love a good sing-along, then join the Centre for Brain Research’s CeleBRation Choir for their annual Christmas Concert at the Tamaki Campus of Auckland University on the 17th December!

Music therapist Alison Talmage, who leads the choir with colleague Shari Ludlam, promises a medley of well-known Christmas songs and carols.  She says the choir members are hard at work rehearsing, and would love an enthusiastic audience to join in and applaud their efforts!

CeleBRation Choir Christmas Concert 2012

Monday 17th December, 2.00-2.30pm, Room 730-220

Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland, Morrin Road, Glen Innes.

For more information on the CeleBRation Choir, click here

CeleBRation Choir to perform at your place!

The CeleBRation Choir, a social singing group for people with communication difficulties as a result of neurological conditions, is an initiative of the Centre for Brain Research, and meets to practice weekly at the University, led by Music Therapists, with support from Speech and Language Therapists.

The choir has performed for various audiences since its inception three years ago, and now you can hear a selection of their work, in your very own home – a professionally produced video is available to view online at the Centre for Brain Research’s website.

Go to: http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/cbr/events/choir.aspx to view, and remember that anyone with a neurological condition is welcome to come along and join us in making music – it’s not called CeleBRation for nothing!

Lecture on listening and language

Professor Suzanne Purdy, an expert in speech science, will deliver her inaugural lecture as professor at The University of Auckland on Thursday 1 December. She will discuss the science of listening and speaking, and the links between psychoacoustics, communication and quality of life.

“Communication can occur in many ways, through written text, gesture, sign language, and through speech,” explains Professor Purdy. “Psychoacoustics – the ability to perceive subtle differences in sounds – underpins the remarkable speech perception and speech production abilities of humans. Psychoacoustic abilities develop as children mature and then deteriorate as people age. They depend on hearing sensitivity and the brain’s auditory processing capacity.”

“Oral communication is a key human activity that underpins language learning and other areas of development and participation in everyday life for most people. So quality of life can be affected for people who have difficulties with hearing, auditory processing, speech perception and/or language.”

“Since communication is a shared endeavour, families and communities can also be greatly affected. Discriminating speech sounds, listening and speaking are abilities that most people do not attend to greatly until they encounter someone who was born with a communication problem or who acquired a problem as a result of accident, illness or aging.”

In the lecture Professor Purdy will review her 30 years of research and clinical work aimed at understanding the diagnosis, impact and treatment of communication disorders in children and adults.

Professor Purdy is Head of Discipline of Speech Science in the Department of Psychology. Her research interests include the electrophysiological assessment of auditory function in infants and children, objective assessment of hearing aid performance, auditory processing disorders and reading delay, aural rehabilitation in hearing impaired adults, and speech perception in children. She is currently running a study into singing as a therapy for people with stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Purdy is a clinical audiologist who began her career at Auckland Hospital and National Audiology Centre. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study for her PhD at the University of Iowa and returned to New Zealand in 1990 when the country’s first academic programme in audiology was established. Professor Purdy worked for several years at the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney during which time she established a new clinical technique for evaluating hearing aid function in infants with hearing loss. She returned to New Zealand with her family eight years ago to head the newly established Discipline of Speech Science at The University of Auckland.

Professor Purdy’s talk is part of The University of Auckland’s 2011 Inaugural Lectures for new professors. It will be held in room 732.201 at the Tāmaki Innovation Campus from 6pm on Thursday 1 December, with refreshments at Café Europa, Building 733, from 5:30pm. It is open to the public and free of charge, and anyone is welcome to attend.

Singing for health

Auckland City Mayor Len Brown sang with members of the CeleBRation Choir this week. The community music therapy group offers singing therapy to people with communication problems through brain disease.

Singing for health

Mayor Len Brown sang with members of the CeleBRation Choir, who have communication problems through brain disease

Mayor Brown’s love of singing is well known, and he was very keen to visit the 30-strong CeleBRation Choir, run by the Centre


for Brain Research at The University of Auckland. Members include people who live with the effects of stroke, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, along with other neurological conditions. People with these conditions may have problems speaking but find they can still sing.

Mayor Brown was treated to a list of well-known songs, solos and rounds before he discussed his love of singing and its role in his own recovery from a heart attack. He then led a rendition of the Christmas carol “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and gave a solo performance of a new waiata “Ko Tamaki Matou” celebrating the history and future of Auckland.

His visit provided a snapshot into some of the University’s latest research around brain disease and recovery, led by scientists in the Centre for Brain Research’s Brain Recovery Clinic. He took part in a demonstration of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation by Dr Jim Stinear, an exercise rehabilitation expert. This electromagnetic stimulation technology is described by Jim as “a simple but effective concept” providing new rehabilitation hope for people with movement problems through stroke.

The CeleBRation Choir choral group began as a social gathering for people affected by brain disease in September 2009. Now, two years on, it is not only a successful meeting of camaraderie, good cheer and melodies but also the subject of a number of academic studies into the unique benefits of singing therapy for the brain.

A team at the Centre for Brain Research is studying the CeleBRation Choir as a potential therapy for people with communication disorders through brain disease. Called SPICCATO (Stroke and Parkinson’s: Investigating Community Choir Engagement and Therapeutic Outcomes), the research is funded by the Health Research Council.  The team is led by Speech Science Head Professor Suzanne Purdy, and will look at therapeutic benefits from taking part in group singing – including people who have aphasia through stroke, and people with Parkinson’s disease who can develop voice or speech problems.

The Choir meets weekly on Mondays at the University’s Tāmaki Innovation Campus. New members are always welcome. For information on dates look at our website: http://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/faculty/cbr/events/choir.aspx