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Music as Medicine

Harpist Peggy Houng Harpist Peggy Houng plays for a group

Though acknowledging the role of music in addressing illness is not new, recent research is illuminating how music affects the brain and other body systems in a measurable way.

Using that knowledge, practitioners can now integrate music with medicine to augment healing. The Center for Music & Medicine is continuing to expand research on the effect of music on neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and stroke.

A recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins found that group singing improved quality of life and voice strength and clarity in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients have continued singing weekly in the community, an endeavor also supported by the Johns Hopkins Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center.

Why Choose Johns Hopkins?

  • Research on the Whole-Body Experience: Actively making music is a whole-body sensory and motor experience with advantages for people living with neurodegenerative diseases. The center is conducting cutting-edge research on both active and passive music experiences.
  • Dual Perspectives: Pairing an understanding of music with world-class health care, we provide a unique experience that offers you the best of both worlds.
  • Multidisciplinary, World-Class Clinical Care: The Center for Music & Medicine’s care team is a community of care providers including neurologists, neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, physical and rehabilitative therapists, speech-language pathologists and psychologists.

Music has been an integral part of the human experience as long as humanity has been around. It’s been intuitively felt to have healing properties, but now we are in a position to study the mechanisms and optimize music-based interventions.
Alexander Pantelyat, M.D., director of the Center for Music & Medicine.

Music Therapist with a cart of equipment

Music Therapy Programs

Music therapy is the use of music delivered by a board-certified music therapist to improve and support an individual’s health.

Learn more about music therapy.

Our team of licensed, board-certified music therapists are honored to collaborate with patients of all ages who have a wide range of diagnoses and lived experiences, including but not limited to: neurodegenerative disorders, movement disorders, dementia, depression anxiety, and hospitalized children and adults.

Our current programs include:

  • Neurologists and neurosurgeons treat diseases, injuries and conditions of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (motor and sensory nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord).

    The Center for Music & Medicine recommends scheduling an appointment with the neurology and neurosurgery department for the following conditions:

    Learn more about Neurology and Neurosurgery.

    • Neurology Support Group: Virtual music therapy space for patients with neurodegenerative disorders interested in learning how to use music to support their motor, speech, and psychosocial needs (Last Wednesday of the Month at 11am via Zoom): For free registration, please contact Kerry Devlin, MMT, MT-BC (kdevlin5@jh.edu)
    • Ataxia support group: For free registration, please contact Amanda Rosado, MMT, LPMT, MT-BC (arosado4@jhu.edu)
    • Johns Hopkins Music and Medicine club members (medical students and other Hopkins volunteers) provide weekly Zoom performances for hospitalized patients and staff. Learn more (login required).
    • Musicare provides musical performances at Kennedy Krieger Institute, Mercy Medical Center, Union Memorial Hospital, Future Care/Good Samaritan Nursing Home and the Keswick Multicare Center. Learn more
  • ParkinSonics is a unique program for people with Parkinson's disease. The program explores how singing fosters improvement of neurologic function while elevating the mood and spirit. When immersing in ParkinSonics, participants’ attention moves away from illness and toward creativity. Singing together in the group has helped increase participants’ vocal volume and clarity, rhythmic movement and confidence of emotional expression, while cultivating a sense of community.

    New singers are welcome to join, and no musical experience is necessary. For details, contact Ellen Talles at EllenTalles@comcast.net.

  • In February 2021, we began offering free weekly virtual drumming classes for individuals with parkinsonian disorders and their care partners. Research suggests that group drumming can improve quality of life and other symptoms in people with Parkinson disease.

    For more information, contact Jason Armstrong Baker at rx4rhythm@gmail.com

  • The Racial Justice Concert Series (RJCS), a collaboration among Johns Hopkins students, faculty and staff, harnesses the power of music to bring awareness to issues of racism in Baltimore, and to support Baltimore organizations that focus on racial justice work. The RJCS features performances by Baltimore musicians and provides a platform for racial justice organizations to educate audiences about their efforts. The RJCS is cooperatively produced and funded by the Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanities, & Health, Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine, and Johns Hopkins International Arts & Mind Lab.

    SOURCE is the community engagement and service-learning center for the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Schools of Public Health, Nursing, and Medicine. SOURCE's mission is to engage the Johns Hopkins University health professional schools and Baltimore communities in mutually beneficial partnerships that promote health and social justice.

    Contact Info:

    Loren Ludwig, Program Coordinator
    Program in Arts, Humanities, & Health at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
    Telephone: 413-687-1998
    Email: Lludwig1@jh.edu

  • To request an appointment with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, call 410-955-5212.

    The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine has occupied a distinguished place in the field of psychiatry since the opening of the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in 1913. The department’s long tradition of excellence in patient care, teaching and research supports the advancement of music-based therapies to improve outcomes in patients with cognitive disorders.

    Learn more about Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for music therapy treatments addressing Alzheimer’s disease and memory disorders.

  • To request an appointment with the Palliative Medicine Program, call 410-614-9892.

    Johns Hopkins’ palliative medicine program helps patients facing life-threatening illnesses, supporting them and their families with multidisciplinary expertise and compassion. Palliative medicine focuses on controlling pain, dealing with the mental and emotional effects of serious illness and managing symptoms through a range of interventions, including music-based therapies.

    Learn more about Palliative Medicine.

Learn more about music therapy and neurologic music therapy (NMT).

Conditions We Aim to Treat with Music

Learn more about the conditions we treat in our Health section:

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