Scientific Tools for Music Therapy Research -1

by - Dr. T V Sairam

Scientific research in music therapy is a recent phenomenon. Thanks to the tremendous progress made in recent years in the realm of electronic gadgets and equipment, the unfathomable human brain is slowly coming to the folds of science. Music Therapy research, which was all the time groping in darkness due to lack of an evidence-based approach, has now started looking up with some rays of hope, coming from the new equipment which have started showing promise towards a more scientific conclusion with regard to music as medicine. However, previous studies on physiological responses to music did show inconsistent results, which might be attributable to methodological differences. In view of this there needs to be a thorough updation with regard to equipment and methodologies so that dependable research can be conducted in future.

We are taking up here just a few of many such instrumental possibilities that can be helpful for our researchers in the colleges and the universities here. This is just a preliminary introduction about the possibilities of gadgets which are appearing in the market for making music therapy a more evidence-based intervention in the modern medical setting.

EMG (electromyography) - is a technique for measuring and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. EMG is performed using a device called an electromyography, which detects the electrical potential generated by muscle cells, when they are electrically or neurologically activated. EMG signals are used in many clinical and biomedical applications. They are useful in analyzing the biomechanics of human movement. They also help in detecting medical abnormalities, activation level or recruitment order. EMG is used for assessing low-back pain, kinesiology, and disorders of motor control. Unvoiced speech recognition recognizes speech by observing the EMG activity of muscles associated with speech.

SCR (skin conductance response) also GSR ( galvanic skin response) - is a method of measuring the electrical conductance of the skin, which varies with its moisture level. As the sweat glands are regulated by sympathetic nervous system, this method can be used for ascertaining psychological or physiological arousal caused in the listeners with selected musical intervention. There has been a long history of electro dermal activity research, most of it dealing with spontaneous fluctuations or reactions to stimuli. It is used in scientific research of emotional or physiological arousal, caused by stimuli (in music therapy studies, it is music which is used as a stimulus). In recent years, many biofeedback therapy devices employ skin conductance to measure and present an individual's stress response with the goal of helping the user to control their anxiety. This measurement is also becoming popular in hypno-therapy and psychotherapy practices. When traumatic material is experienced by the client, there are immediate changes in sweat rate. These changes indicate that the client is experiencing emotional arousal. This method is also useful to measure physiological responses such as fear.

EEG (electroencephalography) - is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp. It measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain. In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain's spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time, usually 20–40 minutes, as recorded from multiple electrodes. Derivatives of the EEG technique include evoked potentials (EP), which involves averaging the EEG activity time-locked to the presentation of a stimulus of some sort (visual, somatosensory, or auditory). Event-related potentials (ERPs) refer to averaged EEG responses that are time-locked to more complex processing of stimuli; this technique is used in cognitive science, cognitive psychology, and psychophysiological research.

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