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John Phillips Sousa, Alan Alda and Parkinson's Disease.

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

I saw Alan Alda on CBS This Morning when he announced, officially, that he has Parkinson's disease.

It reminded me of working with some of his team from the Alda Center for Communicating Science and a group of medical researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. I was helping the Alda Center's facilitators in a session where we were teaching these scientists how to better clarify their message and was paired with a Parkinson's researcher who examines the ways in which music can help people with Parkinson's walk without falling. She had developed substantial proof that if music with a steady beat is playing OR they sing it to themselves, they are able to sustain a steady gait. The improv exercise I did with this researcher helped her to understand that part of the way in which she was telling the story of her research wasn't quite working and she was able to adjust accordingly. Alan mentioned that he uses this technique to help him cope with Parkinson's, singing John Phillips Sousa marches to himself all the time.

The use of improv helps scientists make the complex clear. And the use of science helps Parkinson's patients to stay upright!

Alan Alda, Me and an amazing group of scientists, communicators and theatre professionals. Alda Center for Communicating Science, June 2014

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