Despite their similarities, music and language are processed in different parts of the brain: Language in the left hemisphere; and music, generally, in the right one. That's why Giffords can sing. But other forms of "automatic language," such as greetings and prayers, can also be spared, according to Lyn Turkstra, associate professor of communicative disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Giffords recently chanted a healing prayer with her rabbi, Stephanie Aaron.
"I was chanting this prayer with her, and I could see she wanted to chant with me. I started chanting the prayer in English instead of Hebrew and we were sort of chanting the prayer together," Aaron said.
Aaron said Giffords got frustrated because she didn't know the prayer.
"I said we just need to relax. She would close her eyes and just breathe. In Hebrew, the word for soul is nephesh -- of the same root as breath, neshamah. Taking a breath gives your soul life."
Aaron said the progress Giffords has made in two months is "quite extraordinary."
"And it really goes hand in hand with the kind of person she is: An extraordinary human being -- brilliant of mind, compassionate of soul."
When she left Giffords to return to Tucson, Aaron said, "Gabby, what do you need to remember to do?"
Giffords replied, "Breathe."