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A Crescendo of Interest and Research in Music and Health

May 18, 2017
Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.
Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Director, Division of Extramural Research
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View Dr. Edwards’ biographical sketch

It is “music to my ears” when I hear of (and see) the fast-growing interest among researchers, clinicians, musicians, and the public in music’s effects on the brain and health. I’d like to tell you about a major new partnership between the NIH and the The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and two relevant funding opportunities.

First, a bit of background: NCCIH began looking at research on music, other arts-based therapies, and health a few years ago. It’s a topic that fits with our mission and 2016 strategic plan in many ways―it involves mind and body approaches; is relevant to prevention, health promotion, and the management of difficult symptoms; and, in mechanistic studies, reflects our focus on fundamental science. 

Earlier this year, we joined the other components of NIH to partner with The Kennedy Center in an initiative called Sound Health. The collaboration began with Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director, and Renée Fleming, soprano and The Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor at Large, and is intended to explore the relationship between music, health/wellness, and science. In January, I was a panelist and cochair at a closed workshop to initiate Sound Health activities, including a trans-NIH working group that is developing a scientific research agenda. Resources emerging from the workshop include a summary; a videocast; and a resource book of panelists and their interests, to facilitate research connections.

June 2-3 will be landmark days in Washington, D.C., when Sound Health launches its first public events, “Music and the Mind,” on the intersection of music and science. There will be performances, presentations, and discussions by Dr. Collins, Ms. Fleming, the National Symphony Orchestra, neuroscientists, music therapists, and others. Some events are free, open to the public, and will be streamed online, while others are ticketed. To find out more, see the Web site. Specific medical conditions to be discussed include autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological disorders.

In closing, we encourage researchers who are interested in investigating music and art therapies to review our two active funding opportunity announcements:

  • PAR-17-149, Phased Innovation Award for Mechanistic Studies to Optimize Mind and Body Interventions in NCCIH High Priority Research Topics (R61/R33). We have published a notice to indicate interest in researching complex interventions such as music and art therapy.
  • PAR-14-294, Arts-Based Approaches in Palliative Care for Symptom Management (R01). While this funding announcement expires in September, NCCIH will explore avenues to support research on music and palliative care.

NCCIH plans to remain engaged in funding research on music and art therapies, and we hope you will join us in spreading the word to the research community!


Comments are now closed for this post.

My research in consciousness rests on a system of novel signals which are responsible for engendering meaning in a conscious experience, or qualia, as well as, for simultaneous semantically coextensive representation of meaning before expressing it linguistically. This research has relevance in exploring relation between music and health. Husain, Sirajul: A Non-reductive Study of Cosciousness based on Non-coding RNA gene (HAR1F). J. Neuroquantology. (2015) 13(2), 240-249. 

As a medical massage therapist working in the field of palliative care, having worked in a spectrum of treatment modality environments including chiropractic and physical therapy, the connection between music and healing responses from the body has long fascinated me. For instance, I am developing a class on the musical implementation of an age old massage technique used for exciting or inhibiting neuromuscular activity: Tapotement. With Tapotement I believe we can harness the power of a patients affinity for particular rhythms to enhance palliative focused outcomes. Is this the type of practices that the NCCIH are interested in investigating?

@Christian Green, We appreciate your interest in our Center. NCCIH is open to new ideas for research on music, massage, and healing. Applications for research grant funding must be submitted by an organization (not an individual) that is able to comply with all relevant NIH requirements​. Please see for more information about who can apply for funding. You can find more information about our grants process and current funding opportunities at



I’d like to see NIH also open a grant research line opportunity, specifically geared for individuals research, as non-pharmaceutical wellness modalities are rarely conducted by corporations.  Thus, rarely studied, yet used en mass. Can NIH staff research and also gear grant funding opportunities towards individuals in the non-pharmaceutical wellness industry?Matching grant criteria to meet the non-corporate sector to promote individual based research has a different value added and enlightenment that bears relevance to the overall health and wellness of individuals en mass long term.

FYII gave the old N.I.H. clinical center building top floor rehab director some mp3s back in the 1990s, which she may have added to that available for  (bone marrow ward) inpatients like myself — including musicians like Constance Demby, David Darling, Michael Stearns, Paul Winter, & Steve Roach ….  She gave me a N.I.H. Clinical Relaxation CD in 2001 of collected works that she was developing.

@Kathleen Corkett, Thank you for your question and suggestion for new areas of research. NCCIH is one component of the larger National Institutes of Health. The new NCCIH Strategic Plan identifies health promotion and disease prevention as a priority for NCCIH (see It is important to realize that we fund research grants and contracts that are submitted by institutions or organizations to conduct research studies that evaluate testable hypotheses. NCCIH has multiple funding opportunities for research investigators from universities, hospitals, and other organizations to study the clinical effects and mechanisms of mind and body interventions, all of which are non-pharmaceutical approaches. Non-profits and small businesses can also apply for research funding for studies that fall within our research priorities. For more about NCCIH-funded research, please see our “Research” page at​ 

This page last modified June 02, 2017