Research Topic

Dialogues in music therapy and music neuroscience: collaborative understanding driving clinical advances

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Music is a complex, dynamic stimulus with an un-paralleled ability to stimulate a global network of neural activity involved in attention, emotion, memory, communication, motor co-ordination and cognition. As such, it provides neuroscience with a highly effective tool to develop our understanding of brain ...

Music is a complex, dynamic stimulus with an un-paralleled ability to stimulate a global network of neural activity involved in attention, emotion, memory, communication, motor co-ordination and cognition. As such, it provides neuroscience with a highly effective tool to develop our understanding of brain function, connectivity and plasticity. Increasingly sophisticated neuroimaging technologies have enabled the expanding field of music neuroscience to reveal how musical experience, perception and cognition may support neuroplasticity, with important implications for the rehabilitation and assessment of those with acquired brain injuries and neurodegenerative conditions. Other studies have indicated the potential for music to support arousal, attention and emotional regulation, suggesting therapeutic applications for conditions including ADHD, PTSD, autism, learning disorders and mood disorders.

The profession of music therapy has also advanced significantly in the past 20 years. Various interventions designed to address functional deficits and health care needs have been developed, alongside standardised behavioural assessments. Historically, music therapy has drawn its evidence base from a number of contrasting theoretical frameworks. Clinicians are now turning to neuroscience, which offers a unifying knowledge base and frame of reference to understand and measure therapeutic interventions from a biomedical perspective. Conversely, neuroscience is becoming more enriched by learning about the neural effects of ‘real world’ clinical applications in music therapy. While neuroscientific imaging methods may provide biomarking evidence for the efficacy of music therapy interventions it also offers important tools to describe time-locked interactive therapy processes and feeds into the emerging field of social neuroscience. Music therapy is bound to the process of creating and experiencing music together in improvisation, listening and reflection. Thus the situated cognition and experience of music developing over time and in differing contexts is of interest in time series data.

We encourage researchers to submit papers illustrating the mutual benefits of dialogue between music therapy and other disciplines important to this field, particularly neuroscience, neurophysiology, and neuropsychology. Studies may incorporate neuroimaging methods such as fMRI, EEG and MEG or biomarkers and physiological measures such as hormonal measures, skin conductance, and heart rate variability. Regarding the conceptual framework, the following question will be approached from different viewpoints: what can we understand about the musical, therapeutic, relational or creative processes in music therapy from a neuroscience perspective, and how can this perspective advance music therapy practice? Those authors working with clinical populations with acquired, developmental or neurodegenerative neurological and psychiatric conditions are welcomed to submit empirical research, systematic reviews and meta-analysis, case studies adopting neuroscientific methods, position statements, or papers offering new theoretical perspectives.

This Topic is cross-listed in Frontiers in Neuroscience - Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, which also welcomes your submissions.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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