Can the relationship between the musical beat and somebody’s movement affect how much you trust them? And what does that say about the relationship between musical characteristics and social relationships?

A new paper has been published which explores such questions. It is by Neta Spiro (our Head of Research) and her collaborators Dr Sarah Knight and Prof. Ian Cross. We asked the authors about the paper and why they think it is relevant to music therapy.

Visual impairment can threaten the early attachment of an infant. Much early experience of socialisation may be missed, and people may face challenges in their ability to form relationships with others. Music-making can help in a number of ways including:

In the UK there are 23,000 deafblind people. 8.9 million people have some form of hearing impairment, and between 1.5 million and 2 million are visually impaired.

Music involves sight, sound and touch. People with a sensory impairment often develop a greater responsiveness in the senses that remain intact and musical activity can facilitate this.

The term physical impairment can indicate a range of different conditions. These include congenital disabilities such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida and progressive conditions such as muscular dystrophy. We also include here conditions that create lung weakness, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or lung disease.

Potential benefits

Every course of music therapy is different, and there are no set results. However, some of the ways that people with physical impairment have been found to benefit from music include:

For those facing death, the opportunity to be creative in musical activity can be an accompaniment on their journey. The formats in which music is offered are variable and flexible and people are facilitated to play, sing or listen to music in a way that is right for them.

"I arrived in hospital unconscious and walked out singing."

People living with a neurological disorder commonly experience paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of sensation, seizures, confusion and pain. People living with long-term chronic neurological disability may experience social isolation, traumatic life changes and communication impairment in addition to their physical disability.

"When words fail me, music speaks and it’s made a huge impact on my life; I just feel so privileged for that."

One in four of us experiences some sort of mental health difficulty during our life. For some it is a passing episode of distress, while for others it can be a severe illness that seriously disrupts relationships, home life and career. There may be an obvious cause e.g. a bereavement or abusive situation or a range of contributing factors.

"We had finally found something which would bring happiness for our little girl."

1.5 million people in the UK live with a learning disability and can find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. Learning disabilities can also create frustration, anxiety, unhappiness and behavioural difficulties, particularly as children grow up and into adults. There are many syndromes that cause learning disabilities, such as Down’s, Rett, and Fragile X. In this group in particular we work with both children and adults.

Life-threatening illnesses can include immunodeficiency diseases, metabolic disorders and irreversible organ failure. People of all ages are affected.

Medical treatment may be painful and can  involve long periods of hospitalisation and time spent in isolation. Both patients and their families are placed under enormous stress and often have to cope with lack of autonomy and feelings of helplessness and uncertainty.