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Breakthrough with music therapy in tackling mental health issues

The discovery that the brains of a patient and therapist become synchronized during a music therapy session should lead to future interactions between patients and therapists, according to lead researchers Professor Jorg Fachner and Dr Clemens Maidhof of Anglia Ruskin University, U.K.

Music therapy refers to the clinical use of musical interventions designed to improve a person’s quality of life. Music therapists deploy music to help patients to improve their health, in relation to cognitive, motor, emotional, and other ways via active and receptive music experiences. The common aim is to facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication.

For the study, the researchers deployed hyperscanning, a technology that records activity in two brains at the same time. This enabled the researchers to assess how people interact.

In a trial, a patient and therapist wore electroencephalogram caps containing sensors, which captured electrical signals in the brain. The session was recorded using video cameras. During the process, classical music was played as a patient discussed a serious illness in her family.

Music therapists seek a “moment of change,” where they achieve a meaningful connection with their patient. With the study, the female patient’s brain activity moved over from showing deep negative feelings to a positive ones. A few seconds later, when the the therapist saw that the therapy was working, the therapist’s scan displayed similar results.

By applying the technology, music therapy can become more accurate., Currently therapists are reliant upon a patient’s response to judge whether the therapy is working. With hyperscanning the therapist will be able to visualize what is happening in the patient’s brain and adjust the therapy accordingly.

The research has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, with the research paper titled ““Telling me not to worry…” Hyperscanning and Neural Dynamics of Emotion Processing During Guided Imagery and Music.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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