Scottish Music and Health Network (SMHN): Increasing collaborative infrastructure and translating innovations from theory to practice
The relationship between music participation and health has exploded onto to the international academic agenda over the past decade.
Motivated by a desire to investigate innovative, non invasive and economically viable interventions, that embrace contemporary definitions of health, practitioners and researchers across the world have been developing and researching music interventions.This research has also captured the public imagination and hardly a week goes by without articles appearing in the national press and on television speculating about the therapeutic powers of music.
It appears that music, health and wellbeing is a research topic whose time has come. The focus of this research has been on activities that not only facilitate the exploration of creativity but also are enjoyable, accessible and have significant impact upon key health indicators. Aligned with the explosion of interest in the relationship between music and health are considerable advances in the quality and quantity of research investigating the ways in which music and health are related.
Music is widely considered to be a powerful stimulus, often used for motivation and enjoyment, however the intricacies of its effects are still poorly understood. In practice, music is already widely and successfully used in therapeutic settings, often based on an intuitive rationale, or on anecdotal experience.
While this is a clear indication that music is worth researching, a sufficient understanding of our interventions, and thus the opportunity to optimize them, is not currently present. Given the ubiquitous nature of music in human experience, rigorous research is still relatively sparse and the possibilities of its potential for therapeutic effect are largely unknown.
A part of this problem is rooted in interdisciplinary differences, making it harder to communicate. As music interventions are, among others, relevant to psychologists, linguists, musicians, education experts, and of course a wide range of medical and Allied Health specialists, it is unsurprising that extra effort needs to be put into understanding and integrating the diverse, yet often mutually compatible, approaches utilised, and thus achieving a more sophisticated and complete understanding of how music affects people.
Additional to the interdisciplinary disconnect, there is also a problem in how research findings are translated into practice. The steps that need to be taken in order to take an experimental result and develop it into a treatment or intervention are often not achieved, and useable results end up ignored due to practical difficulties.
To remedy this, two key issues need addressing, namely the identification of useable results, and the process management in developing them into an application, preferably also involving the potential users. This holds for both clinical and non-clinical applications that could improve non-medical wellbeing issues or be useful in educational settings. Finally, new technological advances and broad availability of gaming consoles offer innovative new directions in intervention design, for which music is highly suitable. More use should be made of these opportunities when translating research findings to applications that can be used daily.