GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn, - Everyone is talking about the Country Music Hall of Fame Induction. Even people who aren’t country music fans.
Why? Randy Travis.
Travis suffered a massive stroke three years ago caused by a viral infection in his heart. Doctors gave him little chance of survival. Randy Travis fought back. His speech is still very limited, but Sunday night at the induction, he brought the crowd to tears by singing, Amazing Grace.
How can a man who can barely put sentences together, sing? We sat down with Dr. Irfan Altafullah, Director of North Memorial’s Stroke Program, to find out.
“The brain is organized into different centers that deal with different functions,” says Dr. Altafullah. “Spoken language, written language, the lexicon itself is believed to be a function of the left hemisphere."
“In all likelihood the stroke involves the left hemisphere but that's the type of stroke that typically affects language. You have tone, you have harmony, you have volume, and you have pitch. That aspect of language, which is the melody, the speech, it's called prosody, it actually lives in the right side of the brain," Dr. Altafullah added.
“When you lose language you don't lose all of it there may be certain portions of language that are preserved and you combine that with the fact that a song is lyrics and melody and you have a professional singer and you can see how the melody part of the brain might be driving the retrieval of the right words and so he can sing, he could maybe even talk to you in sing-song but he can't have this kind of conversation that we're having."
In fact, Dr. Altafullah says melody is a big part of therapy for stroke patients who have lost language.
Will Randy Travis ever regain his speech? It's possible...but also hard to predict since every stroke patient is different.
But one thing is for sure...the human body is truly remarkable...and the brain...truly magnificent.
"The brain is obviously a very complex organ and we've just started to scratch the surface,” says Dr. Altafullah.