Music Medicine: A New Frontier in Healthcare and Medical Research

Article by Nina Rafeek

Since the beginning of human civilization, music has been a cultural phenomenon.  The dynamic sounds of music can boost our energy, calm us down or emit a powerful emotional response.

Music, however, is not only sound, it is also vibration.  Its pulsing sound waves are able to resonate deep into our cells and neurons. For the first time in medical history, Dr. Lee Bartel, a Professor at the University of Toronto and Director of the Canadian Music and Research Centre, is conducting evidence-based studies to show the therapeutic effects of music on conditions that are related to brain-wave dysrhythmia and mechanical trauma such as stroke.

“Helen”, for example, was suffering from fatigue during the day due to her inability to fall asleep at night.  Dr. Bartel prescribed a “dose” of music to listen to daily in the evening and different dose of music to listen to at bedtime.  A week later, “Helen” was happy to report that she was able to sleep much more deeply than before.  One year later she still uses the music but has become much less dependent on it.

During his talk: Music Medicine: A New Frontier on October 20th, 2016, 7pm,  at the North York Central Library, Dr. Lee Bartel will use narratives such as these to communicate the therapeutic and scientific effects of music on the brain: “What people do not know but are eager to learn about is the scientific explanation for the effect music has – and then to discover that there is even more at work in the body and mind.  So I am pleased to be able to help people understand the potential of music in relation to health”, says Dr. Bartel.

musicmedine2No more counting sheep.

Dr. Bartel explains that dysregulation of brain activity –typically caused by stress or watching stimulating television at night – can hinder one’s ability to fall asleep.  He had prescribed the CD to “Helen” in the evening to boost Alpha brain-wave activity and another CD at bedtime to boost Delta brain-wave activity.  The vibration of the music successfully regulated “Helen’s” brain-wave activity, which resulted improved sleep patterns.

The potential treatment scope of Music therapy is vast. It has already yielded positive results in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, speech pathology due to stroke and/or trauma to the brain, chronic stress, anxiety and numerous other pathologies related to brain dysrhythmia.

“We’re taking it to a much much deeper scientific level than anyone I think would ever have thought, related to music and sound.  So in that sense we’re clearly in a new frontier of research here”, says Professor Bartel.

Through a selection of videos, narratives and examples of brain imaging (EEG) scans, Professor Bartel will illustrate the clinical effects of music on the brain, the practical application of music therapy and its place in the field of medicine and health care.    He will also speak on how the multiple levels at which music and sound can impact a person: from the emotional responses at infancy to how music uses particular brain channels to access language after a stroke to how sound vibration can re-regulate brain dysrhythmias and brain connectivity.

Check out an interview with Lee Bartel on TVO’s The Agenda here

“We are just beginning to understand this new potential.  So in 10 years I would hope we might be at a point, for example, where a doctor diagnoses a person with pain condition such as fibromyalgia and takes out the prescription pad and prescribes 3 treatments per week of 25 minutes of 40 Hz sound stimulation for the next 6 weeks and then adjusts the dose”, says Professor Bartel.

This lecture is open to everyone and registration is not required. It is part of North York Central Library’s Cutting Edge Series Its purpose is to explore new ideas at the intersection of health and technology.

Location: 5120 Yonge St. Toronto, ON. Time: 7pm

More interview questions here.