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NCCIH Research Blog

Join Us To Explore the Potential of Music-Based Interventions

September 29, 2023

Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.

Wen Chen, Ph.D.

Branch Chief and Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

One of the most frequent questions I hear about the expanding field of music and health research is “How can I get involved?” Today, I want to tell you about two new ways in which you can become involved in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) work on music and health: by attending a state-of-the-science workshop and by participating in activities of our four new research networks.

In 2017, NIH, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) formed a collaborative partnership, Sound Health, and organized a workshop to evaluate the state of research on music, the brain, and health across the lifespan. Now, 6 years later, we’re holding a new workshop to evaluate progress over the past 6 years and discuss plans for the future. The workshop, Music as Medicine: The Science and Clinical Practice,” will be held on December 14 and 15, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. You can register now to join us virtually for this event.

The workshop’s first day will feature a keynote address by former NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, who orchestrated NIH’s research efforts on music and health. Workshop sessions will focus on the science of music, music therapy and music medicine, and music education and health. The second day will feature a keynote address by soprano Renée Fleming, who partnered with Dr. Collins to establish Sound Health, plus sessions on future research directions, networks and capacity building, and integration of music-based interventions (MBIs) into clinical practice. 

The workshop’s second day will include presentations on NIH’s four new research networks on MBIs for pain or Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD). Research networks are a special type of NIH initiative, different from a standard research project. They support the development of emerging fields of investigation through broader activities, including collaborations, dissemination and outreach activities, and funding of pilot projects. 

The new music research networks will offer many opportunities for you to participate—by becoming a network member; attending network workshops, conferences, or training events; or submitting a proposal for a pilot project. All four networks will fund pilots, with the goal of enabling investigators to develop preliminary data to support later applications to NIH for larger-scale research.

  • The Research Network to Accelerate Mechanistic Studies of Music for Dementia (RN-MusD), funded by the National Institute on Aging and led by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, will bring together experts from cognitive neuroscience, music therapy, geriatrics, and other fields to accelerate rigorous multidisciplinary research on MBIs to enhance health and well-being for adults with AD/ADRD.
  • The Music4Pain Network, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and centered at Drexel University, will develop a taxonomy of key terms and definitions related to MBIs, enhance understanding of the mechanisms underlying the benefits of music for pain, and identify biomarkers and other variables that predict responses to interventions.
  • The Effective Network to advance Scientific Evidence related to Mechanisms of music-Based interventions (ENSEMBLE), funded by NCCIH and led by investigators at Case Western Reserve University, will promote interdisciplinary collaborations to develop a comprehensive framework for investigating the mechanisms by which MBIs influence different types of pain, initially focusing on pain associated with sickle cell disease.
  • The Music Mechanisms and Technologies Network (MMTN), funded by NCCIH and NEA and centered at Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis, will focus on biopsychosocial mechanisms of MBIs as well as novel methods to enhance the objective, unobtrusive measurement of pain within the context of music experiences. 

I hope you’ll join us for the workshop this winter and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new research networks!

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