Noofa Hannan, Howl Staff
Shakespeare once said, “If music be the food of love; play on.”
Turns out the infamous playwright had it right. Today, an increasing number of scientists believe in the therapeutic powers of music and the University of Toronto is not far behind. Plans are underway for the launch of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory at the Faculty of Music. The centre aims to utilize music’s healing powers for medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease.
According to a draft proposal, the centre would bring together experts from various universities and hospitals who specialize in disciplines ranging from music, neuroscience, medicine and psychology. Dr. Don McLean and Lee Bartel, Dean and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Music, held information sessions last November about the proposed plan. Over two hundred active researchers from related fields attended these sessions.
One of the attendees at these sessions was Takako Fujioka, a scientific associate at the Rotman Research Institute, whose research examines how rhythmic sounds affect the brain. She is currently investigating whether these sounds can be used to help stroke patients regain movement. She said the centre’s emergence is timely and valuable to uncover new ways of treating diseases and conditions.
Dr. McLean announced his excitement at the information sessions. He believes the centre will bring existing “pockets of excellence” around the province under one umbrella and create a movement “that has the potential to move quickly to international prominence.”
While similar programs exist in Cleveland and New York, they are mainly focused on music therapy. The Toronto centre, on the other hand, would be more focused on medical and other research and could prove to be at the forefront of this emerging field.