Effects of melodic intonation therapy in patients with chronic nonfluent aphasia

Author Department

Neurology; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Patients with large left-hemisphere lesions and post-stroke aphasia often remain nonfluent. Melodic intonation therapy (MIT) may be an effective alternative to traditional speech therapy for facilitating recovery of fluency in those patients. In an open-label, proof-of-concept study, 14 subjects with nonfluent aphasia with large left-hemisphere lesions (171 ± 76 cc) underwent two speech/language assessments before, one at the midpoint, and two after the end of 75 sessions (1.5 h/session) of MIT. Functional MR imaging was done before and after therapy asking subjects to vocalize the same set of 10 bi-syllabic words. We found significant improvements in speech output after a period of intensive MIT (75 sessions for a total of 112.5 h) compared to two pre-therapy assessments. Therapy-induced gains were maintained 4 weeks post-treatment. Imaging changes were seen in a right-hemisphere network that included the posterior superior temporal and inferior frontal gyri, inferior pre- and postcentral gyri, pre-supplementary motor area, and supramarginal gyrus. Functional changes in the posterior right inferior frontal gyri significantly correlated with changes in a measure of fluency. Intense training of intonation-supported auditory-motor coupling and engaging feedforward/feedback control regions in the unaffected hemisphere improves speech-motor functions in subjects with nonfluent aphasia and large left-hemisphere lesions.

Keywords: MRI; aphasia; melodic intonation therapy; neuroplasticity; neurorehabilitation; stroke recovery.