Jamming in Toronto: Two International Conferences Highlight Music and Medicine Practices in Healthcare

July 3, 2014
Amy Clements-Cortes PhD MT-BC MT FAMI

Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MT-BC, MT, FAMI, is assistant professor, Music and Health Research Collaboratory, University of Toronto; music therapy instructor and graduate supervisor at Wilfrid Laurier University; Senior Music Therapist/Practice Advisor, Baycrest, Toronto; Past-President CAMT; and WFMT Clinical Commissioner.



This past week I had the honor to chair the Canadian Association for Music Therapy’s (CAMT) 40th Anniversary Conference, and to co-chair the International Association for Music and Medicine (IAMM) Conference in Toronto at the University of Toronto. The newly formed Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) at U of T was a sponsor for the CAMT event and the hosting organization for IAMM. The conference themes both surrounded the use of music across the lifespan.

There were a number of exceptional papers presented on the use of music with older adults. It is exciting to see what music therapists and music and medicine practitioners are using in their clinical practices to advance the care of older adults with music. For example, Dr. Laurel Young, assistant professor at Concordia University, gave a paper titled The Integral Roles of Music Therapy and of the Music Therapist in Dementia Care”; and Dr. Wolfgang Schmidt, associate professor at the Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre presented Sounding Bridges - An Intergenerational Music Therapy Group with Persons with Dementia and Children and Adolescents in Psychiatric Care. The closing keynote speaker, Dr. Alicia Clair, professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, an expert in the field of music and aging, provided insight into how music is being used for gait, language, and memory work with older adults in long-term care settings.

I was pleased to present my research with older adults on singing, the Tenori-on instrument and Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation (RSS) with Alzheimer’s disease (AD): three very different approaches to using music and sound in long-term care. In the Glee: Multi-Phase Research Study on singing for health and wellness talk, I provided an overview of three phases of the “Glee” studies implemented at Baycrest Centre in Toronto, with cognitively impaired older adults attending day care facilities and/or residing in a nursing home. I shared qualitative themes for phase one and two to illuminate the health benefits of singing implemented by a music therapy conductor. There were very strong quantitative results for the glee two study. For example, T-test two-tailed with aggregated sessions data, indicated that changes were statistically significant (P<.01) for four indicators: increases in mood, energy, and happiness and a decrease in pain. Observed decrease in anxiety did not reach statistical significance at conventional levels (P=.06) but is noteworthy given the small sample. Phase three data is being analyzed now.

The research study and paper presentation on the Tenori-on provided an overview of electronic music technology (EMT) in music therapy, alongside the results of a study that focused on the clinical applications of the Tenori-on electronic musical instrument in music therapy. Demonstrations of interventions on the Tenori-on were shared and participants had an opportunity to try the instrument. With respect to older adults the goal areas and uses of the Tenori-on focus on sensory stimulation, memory recall, motivation, social interaction, self-esteem, gait and speech and language areas. Here are two examples of its use: (1) with persons who suffer from aphasia due to stroke using the Tenori-on to create melodies and additionally to form notes to substitute letters to enable non-verbal communication; and (2) for gait by using the Tenori-on to create any rhythm and easily change tempos allowing the therapist to match a client's pace, or set a goal pace.

I was also very excited to report some early findings in the Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation (RSS) study and give a case example of one participant. To date, four participants have completed the study based in Toronto showing an uptrend in their post 40-Hz session test measures whereas in the control condition their scores are remaining flat. The specific aim of the RSS in AD study is to evaluate the effects of 40-Hz sensory stimulation as a means of improving alertness, clarity, and short-term memory in AD.

I encourage you to learn more about the amazing presentations at these events and their respective associations on the following websites:

Conference Proceedings for the CAMT conference will be posted soon on the CAMT conference website.

And don’t forget to get jamming, by putting a little music in your day!



Look for a feature article about sound stimulation in Alzheimer’s disease in an upcoming issue of Annals of Long-Term Care.