People with Alzheimer’s Could Get Prescription for Music

Music affects brainwave activity and could be used to treat neuron-related conditions

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Why do you listen to music? Is it to distract yourself from a repetitive task like running or cleaning? Is it to destress after a hard day at work? Is it to help you focus on your math homework? Or is it simply because you enjoy the rhythms and harmonies?

People listen to music for a variety of reasons because music can elicit a variety of responses. Professor Lee Bartel from the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto studies these responses and the effects they can have on our brains and our bodies. The study of music is inherently multidisciplinary, says Bartel: from psychology and neuroscience to physiology and medicine.

As Founding Director of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC), Bartel is establishing new collaborations between music and health researchers. He has found that music of certain frequencies can drive brainwave activity at those frequencies. If a condition or disease is caused by a dysregulation of the brain’s natural rhythm, then perhaps this type of musical treatment can help restore order. Studies are ongoing looking at musical stimulation for patients suffering from fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s. Synchronizing music tempo to pace can also lead to significantly longer workouts and better workout compliance in cardiac patients.

These are definitely some good vibrations!

Check out our Researchers in Reality series to find out what music leading Canadian researchers are listening to!

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Lee Bartel is Associate Dean, Research, Professor of Music Education and Music and Health, and Founding Director of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) at University of Toronto. A Member of the Collaborative Program in Neuroscience he teaches a graduate course on Music and Brain. With extensive early experience as a music teacher at all levels and as a performing choral conductor, singer, violinist, and guitarist, he has special interest in conditions of learning, pedagogic culture, social psychology, and music in human development. He has focused strongly on music for children developing 60 albums with Fisher Price. In music education his research has included cognition and perception, social psychology, and curriculum, and in general education ranges from international education to issues of evaluation, professional development, homework, and 21st Century learning. He was editor of the Canadian Journal of Research in Music Education, editor of the CME Journal, and senior editor of the CMEA Research to Practice book series. In Music and Health Bartel has a broad interest ranging through music therapy, music medicine, music neuroscience, health in culture, musician’s health, music performance science, and music in human development. He has a special interest in applications of music in health conditions of aging and is well known for his research and design of music for brain effects with 24 albums on Solitudes and SonicAid. He currently has research studies underway in: music enjoyment ability retraining (Music-EAR) approaches for cochlear implant recipients at Sunnybrook Health Sciences; Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation (RSS) for Cardio Rehab at Toronto Rehab; RSS and Fibromyalgia at Mount Sinai Hospital; RSS and Alzheimers at Baycrest; and basic RSS neuroscience at Baycrest.