Julene Johnson

Zarate JM. (2013) The neural control of singing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7:237, 1-12.

This publication is an excellent review of more than two decades of research about the neurobiological aspects of singing. The author discusses the process of vocalization, beginning with the vocal tract and ending up with discussion about the brain network involved in singing and integration with sensory feedback. Based on a review of the brain imaging studies, Zarate notes that singing engages both the vocal motor and sensory networks in highly complex and precise ways. She also makes the argument that vocal motor control in humans is both hierarchical and parallel based on observations of preserved and impaired skills in persons with brain damage. She also discusses how music training modifies the basic brain networks used for vocalization.


Hailstone JC, Crutch SJ, Vestergaard MD, Patterson RD, Warren JD. (2009) Progressive associative phonagnosia: a neuropsychological analysis. Neuropsychologia, 48(4):1104-14,

Hailstone and colleagues present an in-depth study of two individuals who developed a progressive difficulty with recognizing voices, a clinical syndrome called “phonosagnosia”. Both patients completed an extensive battery of clinical tests assessing cognition and the processing of voices, faces, names, and sounds (environmental sounds and musical instruments). When presented with familiar voices, both patients had considerable difficulty recognizing familiar voices. Patient QR’s impairment in voice recognition was likely related to selective difficulty in associating familiar voices with other semantic knowledge about the people. The other patient, KL, appeared to have a deficit across different cognitive modalities (voices, faces, and names).


Cohen GD, Perlstein S, Chapline J, Kelly J, Firth KM, Simmens S. (2006) The impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social functioning of older adults. Gerontologist. 2006 Dec;46(6):726-34.

This article summarizes the first clinical trials that examined the impact of a one-year community choir program on the health and well-being of adults age 65 and older. Cohen and colleagues directed the multi-site, longitudinal “Creativity and Aging” study. Using a pre-post design, the authors reported higher ratings of physical health, higher morale, fewer doctor visits, fewer falls, less loneliness, and less over-the-counter medical use in the group that completed the choir, compared to a usual activity control group. They concluded that participating in choral singing as an older adult can have an impact on health.

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