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:

Associate Minister Health says new Brain Recovery Clinic is great for patients

You can read more about this in the New Zealand Herald or TVNZ news.

The new Brain Recovery Clinic at The University of Auckland Clinics is set to advance the treatment of brain injuries and neurological conditions, bringing together scientists and doctors.

As part of our Centre for Brain Research at Auckland University, the clinic  initially focuses on stroke and traumatic brain injury, with scientists conducting trials of new stroke rehabilitation therapies.

Associate Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman opened the facility, saying the Clinic brings clinicians, researchers and the community together into one place where people can be treated and benefit from greater collaboration.

”The Centre for Brain Research is a great example of collaboration, with over 200 researchers all working towards a common goal of finding and developing new treatments for neurological disease,” Coleman said.

”The work and advances in treatment undertaken at the Clinic will lead to a better quality of life for people living with a brain injury or neurological condition. Ultimately that’s the greatest potential benefit the Clinic offers.”

Issue Three of CBR Connections out now

CBR Connections

The Centre for Brain Research publishes an informative newsletter with all the latest news and information from our team.

Our glossy magazine-style newsletter aims to communicate the excitement of neuroscience to the wider community. It contains articles on our researchers and their latest research, as well as updates and reviews on brain research events and activities in Auckland.

Issue Three of Connections is out now. View the newsletter online here or download it from the CBR website.
In this issue:

CBR Connections
Issue Three of CBR Connections is out now

This issue’s cover story features the new Brain Recovery Clinic and the research underway to improve stroke rehabilitation. We take a look at what the new CBR Biobank will mean for patients. The latest news from the CBR including Brain Awareness Week, the CeleBRation Choir and our public lectures.

New CBR research offers insight into recovery chances after stroke

Posted by Laura Fogg

Stroke patients may soon know the relief of having a definitive prediction of their chances of recovery, according to research conducted at the Centre for Brain Research.

Cathy Stinear, from the University’s Centre for Brain Research, has been investigating techniques for predicting stroke recovery. Her findings were recently published in the world’s leading neurology journal, The Lancet Neurology. Stroke is a leading cause of disability in developed countries and the ability to live independently after stroke depends largely on how well a patient can recover movement.

Dr Stinear says being able to more accurately predict a patient’s prognosis for recovery would benefit both patients and clinicians through enabling realistic goal-setting and efficient resource allocation. Current techniques for predicting recovering include motor impairment scores and neuroimaging (brain scans), while future techniques could include neurophysiological assessments – or tests to detect the extent of damage to key pathways in the brain.

“The first few days after stroke can be a very anxious time for patients. Apart from the shock, they often worry about whether they’ll be able to look after themselves and any dependents in the future. Being able to confidently and accurately predict the recovery of motor skills for these people would be a great relief,” says Dr Stinear.

Dr Stinear’s paper illustrates how investigations done within a week of stroke have very good prognostic value and new techniques including genetic testing for neural plasticity (the brain’s ability to repair itself) were showing promise. “There are many new and exciting prospects for predicting recovery after stroke. Findings so far suggest that the first tests should be those that are quick and simple, such as bedside tests of motor impairment, with progression to more complex tests if uncertainty remains. Later tests could include neurophysiological and neuroimaging assessments of motor system integrity and genetic testing,” says Dr Stinear.

Further work around stroke recovery and brain plasticity in particular is being carried out by Dr Stinear and colleagues through the Centre for Brain Research’s new Brain Recovery Clinic based at the Tamaki Campus.