Music is multisensory in nature – not perceived exclusively by the ears, scientists are discovering – so the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the Kennedy Center’s Renee Fleming are partnering in an interdisciplinary Sound Health Initiative, which aims to stir public interest in the scientific investigation of music and the brain.
Soprano Fleming, a well-known opera singer who also serves as an adviser to the Kennedy Center, also described her fascination with music’s healing ability during a recent “Music and the Mind” presentation at the University of Utah that was part of the initiative.
There, Fleming joined University of Utah neurologists Norman Foster and Jeffrey Anderson to offer their perspective on music’s potential power to change the mind and improve its capacity for language; the session further illuminated possibilities for music to treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, a University of Utah release said.
“Alzheimer disease robs a person of their memories, of their past,” Foster said in the release, referring to the fine arts as “an important window” to comprehending the disease. “Pictures and music help to retrieve these memories.”
Referring to evidence of Alzheimer’s patients who displayed progress in communication following music therapy, Fleming developed an interest in educating the public about the healing potential of the arts.
“I have become very interested in science and medicine, and I started noticing that more and more there were new neurologic studies on music and the brain,” Fleming said in a Kennedy Center article, according to the release. “I really want this message to get out because if people understood the power of arts in our lives (it would affect the way we make arts accessible to everyone).”