Below are details of research projects in Music and Health being undertaken by SMHN members. Please let us know if you have a new project you would like other members to know about, and we will update the page.

Music Moves: Can Musical Cueing Enhance Motor Learning?

Emma Moore, Rebecca Schaefer, Neil Roberts, Mark Bastin, Katie Overy (University of Edinburgh; EC PF7 Marie-Curie Fellowship)

Previous studies have reported neuroplastic changes in grey and white matter as a consequence of motor skill learning. Although auditory cueing is increasingly used in movement rehabilitation, evidence of its efficacy in enhancing motor learning or plasticity is still lacking. This study combines structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (sMRI) and Diffusion Tensor MRI (DT-MRI) to assess the impact of musical cueing on motor learning, in terms of grey matter volume, white matter connectivity and behavioural performance, in healthy individuals, aged 18-30, with less than 5 years of formal musical training.

A training paradigm using a set of 4 sequences of 8 finger-to-thumb opposition movements has been developed, which comprises of 12, 20-minute practise sessions with the non-dominant hand. These are carried out 3 times per week, over a 4 week period. One group trains with only a cueing video, whilst the other group receives additional musical cues that are tailored for the movements. Learning a new movement to music is hypothesised to produce increased grey matter volume in the hand-motor area and auditory cortex and increased white matter connectivity/integrity between the auditory and motor areas.

Residual upper-limb motor impairment is a common problem post-stroke, so if the current study provides proof of principle, follow-up work with stroke patients is a possibility.


Measuring the Effects of Listening for Leisure on Outcome after stroke: a pilot randomised controlled trial (MELLO)
Jonathan Evans (PI); Satu Baylan, Breda Cullen, David Stott, Terry Quinn, Niall Bloomfield, Stewart Mercer, Heather Murray (University of Glasgow, October 2014 to September 2016)
Stroke is the biggest cause of disability in older adults. Early post-stroke rehabilitation focuses primarily on physical disability and activities of daily living. By contrast, relatively little research attention has been paid to the potential for cognitive rehabilitation and mood enhancing interventions in the early stages after stroke. Low mood and cognitive difficulties with attention and memory are common post stroke leading to poorer recovery, emotional wellbeing and quality of life yet accessible and effective therapies are lacking.

Engagement in leisure activities may enhance recovery after stroke but participation in leisure activities is reduced following stroke. Music listening is a low cost and accessible leisure activity that has been suggested to improve mood and cognition post-stroke. We speculate that music listening may enhance control of attention in a similar way to mindfulness interventions, that have been demonstrated to be beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders. We propose that adding a brief mindfulness intervention to music listening might enhance the effect on control of attention, with positive effects on cognition and mood post-stroke but the feasibility and acceptability of this intervention needs to be evaluated before attempting a further trial assessing the effectiveness of this intervention. We aim to recruit 100 patients within two weeks post-stroke.

Participants will be randomly assigned to receive an 8 week music listening alone, music listening with brief mindfulness or audiobook listening intervention alongside treatment as usual. Neuropsychological assessment of cognition and mood will be performed at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months post-stroke In addition, participants will be interviewed about their experience of engaging in the interventions.


SCO ReConnect

Lucy Forde (Scottish Chamber Orchestra) Katie Overy (University of Edinburgh)

SCO ReConnect is a programme of interactive creative music workshops for people living with dementia, designed and delivered at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital by SCO Connect, the Creative Learning Department of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.   The delivery phase involves a series of half day workshops led by a workshop leader and two SCO musicians, structured around hour long interactive, creative, group music-making sessions involving the dementia patients and their carers and an NHS Occupational Therapist.  This phase overlaps with an evaluation phase delivered in partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD). Building on the success of the pilot project from June-August 2013, SCO ReConnect will be delivered again in summer 2014 at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

The SCO have worked with various partners to develop and deliver SCO ReConnect, including Artlink (Edinburgh and the Lothians).  SCO ReConnect is generously supported by the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, Lilly UK, The Co-operative Membership Community Fund, J Macdonald Menzies Charitable Trust and the Albert Hunt Trust. If you would like to find out more about SCO ReConnect please contact Lucy Forde (SCO Connect Director) on