Some people with aphasia notice that they are able to sing much better than they are able to speak. This is because music uses different areas of the brain than speech. Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) takes advantage of this singing ability. It applies musical elements to speech in order to improve language production.
MIT uses the melody and rhythm of speech in an exaggerated way, making speech resemble singing. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) will start with simple phrases. The SLP will demonstrate how the phrase can be “sung” by giving it a melody. The person with aphasia will then practice repeating the phrase, or the SLP and person with aphasia might sing the phrase together. The SLP can provide cues to help if needed. The person with aphasia is often encouraged to tap their finger and slow down speech. As the person with aphasia improves, longer sentences will be used. In addition, the melody will be faded out so that it resembles typical speech.
Traditional MIT used a pre-determined list of words, phrases and sentences. It also suggested that two tones be used. However, SLPs have interpreted MIT in many ways and use it in different forms. There is not a specific melody or intonation that has to be used. The SLP can create the intonation for each phrase. Each phrase will typically have at least two different tones, and the SLP’s vocal tone will rise and fall on certain words. Because of this, MIT will be different from one therapist to the next. Some therapists incorporate other elements of music, such as a musical instrument or using familiar songs.
MIT is usually used for people with non-fluent aphasia. It can be helpful for people with moderate or severe aphasia. One benefit of MIT as applied by most SLPs is that it can be done with any phrase or sentence.