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NCCIH Research Blog

A Note on NCCIH Activities Related to Music, Health, and Child Development

September 6, 2018

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

I have long believed that music is an essential part of the human experience. Music moves us, lifts our moods, helps us recall memories, and even has the potential to impact our health. That is why I am pleased to tell you about the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) commitment to further research into music interventions from the very beginning stages of life.

From an early age, children are remarkably responsive to music and its elemental components (e.g., melody, harmony, rhythm, and dynamics). A growing body of evidence suggests musical training has the capacity to foster the development of non-musical skills across a host of domains, including language development, attention, visuospatial perception, and executive function. Rhythm, for example, has been shown to impact brain development in areas involved in processing both music and speech. Musical training enhances the brain’s temporal precision in its response to sound and may even serve as a framework for developing language skills.

As we evaluate gaps in our pediatric research portfolio, like during the “Pediatric Complementary and Integrative Health” mini-symposium that took place this past June, NCCIH has had an opportunity to examine how children fit within NCCIH’s other areas of focus. Since music and art therapy are of particular importance to child development, NCCIH has taken a leading role in the trans-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Music and Health Working Group. I am proud to serve as the group’s co-chair as its members work to develop a research agenda to increase understanding on how music impacts health across the lifespan. The outcomes of this working group are certain to provide additional opportunities for our pediatric research portfolio.

In this vein, I want to inform you about a notice of intent to publish a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for promoting research on music and health. The FOA will utilize the phased R61/R33 funding mechanism to support mechanistic research and evaluate the clinical relevance of music interventions. We will be soliciting applications to develop music interventions aimed at understanding their mechanisms of action and clinical applications. This notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive projects.

I also want to let you know about “Music and the Mind: Shaping Our Children’s Lives Through Music Engagement,” a joint initiative of NIH and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled for Friday, September 7 and Saturday, September 8 in Washington, DC. This event will bring together acclaimed musical artists and top neuroscientists to explore the links between music, rhythm, and brain development. You are invited to join the concert on September 7 and the day-long series of activities, workshops, and discussions on September 8 (limited tickets are still available). Read more about last year’s event here.

This is an exciting time for those interested in creative arts approaches for integrative health. I will continue to provide updates as we make progress in this area.


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