Skip Navigation
Search Menu
Center for Music & Medicine


The Center for Music & Medicine’s research explores the impact of music and rhythm-based therapies on Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and a number of other disorders. In addition, the center aims to study the neurological and musculoskeletal impact of repetitive practice and performance, and isolate practice and performance patterns that predispose musicians and dancers to occupational injuries.

Listening to music activates as many, if not more, parts of the brain than any human activity – which makes it complex to study.

Alexander Pantelyat, M.D., co-director of the Center for Music and Medicine

Clinical Research Goals

Developing effective music and rhythm-based therapies requires a deep understanding of how music and rhythm affect the brain. There is also a pressing need to understand the biomechanical determinants and mechanisms of occupational disorders in musicians..

Research initiatives include the following:

Neuroimaging Studies

  • State-of-the-art functional and structural brain MRI techniques to help us understand the mechanisms supporting the use of music and rhythm as therapeutic tools
  • Neuroimaging to facilitate insight into the perception and creation of music
  • Neuroimaging and computational methods to advance the application of motor learning concepts and using these to design efficient training regimens for musicians and others with high-precision sensorimotor demands

Researching Music and Rhythm-based Interventions

  • Providing ongoing music- and dance-based therapy to patients with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke and other disorders
  • Studying rhythmic entrainment (rhythmic patterns) and rhythmic auditory stimulation therapy, which uses focused sounds to stimulate the brain, for walking and balance in parkinsonian disorders
  • Investigating the benefits of choral singing on Parkinson's disease patients’ quality of life and voice outcomes in a well-controlled trial (ParkinSonics trial)
  • Studying the behavioral effects when institutionalized Alzheimer’s patients listen to familiar and personally meaningful music (a concept described in the 2014 award-winning documentary Alive Inside, which suggests that music can bring joy back into the lives of people with dementia and other conditions that result in institutionalization) versus unfamiliar music
  • Assessing rhythm-based therapies such as group drumming to enhance walking and balance in Parkinsonian disorders as well as Huntington disease
  • Investigating the benefits of guitar group lessons on Parkinson's disease patients’ quality of life, function and hand dexterity 

Researching Interventions for Musicians’ Playing and Singing-Related Disorders

  • Objective analysis of musician performance to determine the cause of the occupational problem and develop long-term rehabilitation solutions
  • Development of measurement tools and systematic methods to investigate playing-related biomechanical problems in musicians.
  • Analysis of the biomechanics of instrument play and motor expertise using the Peabody Smart Instrument Series to assess biomechanical loads on musicians
  • Investigating various re-training methods and their outcomes for improving function for musicians (for example, guitarists) with dystonia

Clinical Trials

Impact of Non-traditional Guitar Group Instruction on Functional Movement and Well-being in Parkinson's Disease Patients (PD/Guitar). Learn more about this clinical trial. 

Research Studies

Below are research projects at Johns Hopkins involving the Center for Music & Medicine. An asterisk (*) next to project name indicates those utilizing the Impact Thinking Model.


  • Population: Parkinson's disease
  • Description: 18-week delayed start trial of twice weekly group guitar lessons for QOL, typing, other motor and mood outcomes
  • Investigators: Bastepe-Gray, Pantelyat
  • Status: Manuscript under review


  • Population: Parkinson's disease
  • Description: 30-week randomized controlled trial of weekly group singing vs. support group for QOL, voice, motor and mood outcomes
  • Investigators: Pantelyat
  • Status: Manuscript in preparation

Personally meaningful music for dementia

  • Population: Mixed dementia population in a nursing facility (Integrace, Sykesville, MD)
  • Description: Controlled study of a single personally meaningful song vs. control song administered 3x/week over 5 weeks for immediate and longer-term behavioral and neuropsychiatric outcomes
  • Investigators: Tabassum Majid (Integrace Institute), Pantelyat
  • Status: Manuscript in preparation


  • Population: Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, caregivers
  • Description: 18-week parallel group pilot study of twice weekly drumming for patients and their care partners for caregiver burden, QOL, mood, and disease-specific functional outcomes
  • Investigators: Pantelyat, Bastepe-Gray
  • Status: Data analysis

Personally meaningful music for C-sections

  • Population: Women at JHH undergoing elective C-sections
  • Description: Study of short-term pre- and post-operative effects of personally selected music channel for vital signs, pain, anxiety, medication use, and satisfaction
  • Investigators: Stephen Martin, Pantelyat
  • Status: Enrolling

Retraining in Guitarist’s Dystonia

  • Population: Guitarists with focal task-specific dystonia; guitar teachers
  • Description:
    • Phase I: Survey-based assessment of guitar retraining methodologies (separate surveys distributed to guitar teachers and guitarists with dystonia)
    • Phase II: A critical assessment of existing retraining methods and development of a new retraining approach syn- thesizing existing best practices
    • Phase III: Clinical trial testing retraining in guitarist’s dystonia
  • Investigators: Bastepe-Gray, Pantelyat
  • Status: Phase I Enrolling

Music Listening as a Postanesthesia Care Unit (PACU) Nursing Intervention after Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy

  • Population: Men at JHH undergoing laparoscopic radical prostatectomies
  • Description: Controlled study of short term post-anesthesia effects of personally selected music channel vs. relaxation/breathing recording for vital signs, pain, anxiety, medication use, and satisfaction
  • Investigators: Myrna Mamaril, Laura Kaiser, Elizabeth Scala, Pantelyat
  • Status: Manuscript in preparation

Use of Music for Pain Management Workflow: A Quality Improvement Project

  • Population: Nurses and patients at JHH
  • Description: Interview-based assessment of current use of music for pain control on multiple nursing units at JHH
  • Investigators: Elizabeth Scala, Pandian, Jill Marsteller, Madeleine Whalen, Pantelyat
  • Status: IRB submission

Music therapy for Alzheimer dementia: clinical and fMRI outcomes*

  • Population: Alzheimer dementia
  • Description: Open label study assessing impact of 12 weeks of twice-weekly reminiscence-based music therapy on neuropsychiatric symptoms, resting state and task-based network connectivity
  • Investigators: Frederick Barrett, Paul Rosenberg, Magsamen, Pantelyat
  • Status: Protocol planning stages

Research Labs

  • Laboratory of Auditory Neurophysiology

    Research in the Laboratory of Auditory Neurophysiology aims to understand brain mechanism responsible for auditory perception and vocal communication in a naturalistic environment. We are interested in revealing neural mechanisms operating in the cerebral cortex and how cortical representations of biologically important sounds emerge through development and learning.

    We use a combination of state-of-the-art neurophysiological techniques and sophisticated computational and engineering tools to tackle our research questions.

    Current research in our laboratory includes the following areas (1) neural basis of auditory perception, (2) neural mechanisms for vocal communication and social interaction, and (3) cortical processing of cochlear implant stimulation.

    Research Areas: neurophysiology, neuroengineering, audiology, cochlear implant, learning, language

    Lab Website

    Principal Investigator

    Xiaoqin Wang, Ph.D.


    Biomedical Engineering

Interested in Collaborating With the Center for Music & Medicine?

 Contact our team to learn more about exciting new research opportunities.