Potential Benefit of Singing for People with Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review

Jean Barnish, Rachel A. Atkinson, Susannah M. Barran, Maxwell S. Barnish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Although levodopa-based pharmacotherapy has become the mainstay of treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD) in recent decades, its multiple limitations have led to increased interest in non-pharmacological interventions. There is evidence that participation in the performing arts brings psychosocial and health-related benefits in the general population and in recent years there has been substantial interest in the potential therapeutic benefit of performing arts, including singing, for people with chronic medical conditions including those of neurological aetiology.

Objective: To systematically review the existing body of evidence regarding the potential benefit of singing on the clinical outcomes of people with PD.

Methods: Seven online bibliographic databases were systematically searched in January 2016 and supplementary searches were also conducted. Two reviewers independently evaluated retrieved records for inclusion and then performed data extraction and quality assessment using standardised forms. Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were full-text original peer-reviewed scientific papers published in one of seven major European languages that investigated the potential benefit of singing on at least one of speech, functional communication, cognitive status, motor function and quality of life in human participants with PD.

Results: 449 unique records were identified, 25 full-text articles were screened and seven studies included in the review. All seven studies assessed the impact of singing on speech, five found partial evidence of benefit and two found no evidence of benefit. One study assessed each of functional communication and quality of life and no significant benefit was found. No included study assessed the impact of singing on motor function or cognitive status.

Conclusions: Singing may benefit the speech of people with PD, although evidence is not unequivocal. Further research is required to assess wider benefits including on functional communication, cognitive status, motor function and quality of life. Substantial methodological limitations were identified in the existing literature. Recommendations are made for advancing the state of the literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-484
Number of pages12
Journal Journal of Parkinson's Disease
Issue number3
Early online date3 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note


This study was not supported by any particular grant or funding source. The senior author MSB, an epidemiologist with research experience in PD, wishes to thank clinician authors JB, RAA and SMB for their invaluable contributions. JB is a retired health professional with long-standing experience in community health. RAA and SMB are qualified and practising speech and language therapists and RAA specialises in adult neurological disorders. Additionally, we thank Dr Katherine Deane of the University of East Anglia for expert input regarding the Threats to Validity quality tool, on which she was the lead developer.


  • Parkinson Disease
  • rehabilitation
  • singing
  • speech therapy
  • music therapy
  • review
  • systematic


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