Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rock-a-bye Horsey...

There was an interesting new study presented at the Australasian Equine Symposium about horses being weaned while listening to sedative music.  Yes, I said horses!  I was impressed by the researchers out of The University of Queensland who tried to define and use sedative music in the study.  While I am not sure that I agree that it was truly sedative or calming in nature, they found some positive results from a cross-over, quasi-experimental design. 

Twelve weanlings were stabled for 10 days with and without exposure to calming music (Alan Silvestri's main theme music to the movie Forest Gump).  The horses had significantly lower heart rate variability during the music condition and were observed to be more relaxed, spent more time eating and less time walking in the stable.  Also of note, the weanlings had a lower peak heart rate and a decreased duration of peak heart rate while in the music condition when they were exposed to the stress of being near two stallions.  

Many questions can be raised about this study, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.  I am not sure exactly which portions of the movie theme music they used, but when I listened to the opening theme to Forest Gump, it was not as predictable and constant in tempo, dynamics, instrumentation, theme and rhythm as would be best for true sedative music.  I also think the horses must not be very selective about their music preference if they can listen to the same 8-10 minutes music selection over and over for 6 hours every day for five days! Perhaps they were less stressed because they were bored silly!  

I don't know how loud they played the music, but it is possible that the music served as a masking agent for environmental sounds.  Was the music the key to the weanling's positive responses?  There is evidence that heart rate variability responds to music intervention as reported by the emWave biofeedback monitor and the creators of the Heart Math program. Can we make any transfers from this research to an effect of music on humans?  Does this study point to a more physiological, nuero-muscular and autonomic response to music rather than a cognitive response?  

I still have more questions than answers, but please take a look for yourself at the details and let me know what you think!

Wilson, M. E., Phillips, C. J., Lisle, A. T., Anderson, S. T., Bryden, W. L., & Cawdell-Smith, A. J. (2012).  Stress responses in young, stabled horses can be modified by music.  Proceedings of Australian Equine Science Symposium, 4, 45.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Playing Catch Up!

Things are off to a sprinter's start here in Virginia!

The national conference for the American Music Therapy Association is happening much earlier this year in the middle of October!  That moves up all the timelines for final preparations for presentations and travel arrangements.  This year, the conference is in St. Charles, IL, at the Pheasant Run Resort.  I will be presenting a concurrent session on Friday, October, 12 from 7:30 - 9:00am:  Arts Ensemble: A Palette for Success in Combined Music and Art Therapy. I hope you will join me if you are coming to Chicago!

Here are a couple of other things that have come across my virtual table the last few months:

  • Terra Rising Records contacted me in hopes of broadening their network and getting the word out about their efforts to promote music in education and therapy.  They seem like a commendable group and support many different projects for creating music and raising money to fund music and healing.  You can follow them on Facebook
  • Jennifer Buchanan also reached out to me to announce her new book about music and wellness.  Her group of music therapists, The JB Music Therapy Team, includes a highly qualified list of credentialed music therapists.  You can find out more about her new book here.   
Stay tuned for more links and news as I try to get back into the groove!  Thanks for sticking with me over the summer!      

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