Music is an art form that is found in every culture and at every stage in life. While there is much anecdotal evidence supporting the therapeutic effects of making and listening to music, the science of music for cognitive and brain health is still in its infancy. I will describe recent studies from my lab on music and the brain, especially focusing on music-based interventions for reducing stress and loneliness, and improving working memory. Results point to the role of the brain’s dopaminergic reward system in mediating the beneficial effects of music. I will conclude with some evidence-based recommendations for adopting music as a lifestyle factor to stay cognitively and neurologically healthy in old age. Music therapy is an evidence-based practice, but the needs and constraints of various stakeholders pose challenges towards providing the highest standards of evidence for each clinical application. First, what is the best path from clinical need to multi-site, widely adopted intervention for a given disease or disorder? Secondly, how can we inform policy makers that what we do matters for public health––what evidence do we have, and what evidence do we need? I will review the multiple forms of evidence for music-based interventions in the context of neurological disorders, from large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCT) to smaller-scale experimental studies, and make the case that evidence at multiple levels continues to be necessary for informing the selection of active ingredients of interest in effective musical interventions. I will review some of the existing literature on music-based interventions for neurodegenerative disorders, with particular focus on neural structures and networks that are targeted by specific therapies for disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and aphasia. This is followed by a focused discussion of principles that are gleaned from studies in cognitive and clinical neuroscience, which may inform the active ingredients of music-based interventions. Therapies that are driven by a deeper understanding of the musical elements that target specific disease mechanisms are more likely to succeed, and to increase the chances of widespread adoption. I will conclude with some recommendations for future research.
Presented by: Dr. Psyche Loui