Category Archives: Music Therapy

Brain, Computer-Controlled Musical Interface Opens Doors for Disabled

Image: Renjith Krishnan /

“The bottom line is: Can technology help creativity and if so how? And could it lead to a new kind of approach to music?”

Professor Christopher James, Chair in Healthcare Technology at the UK’s University of Warwick.

These words leapt off the page at me, from a CNN technology article, as I pursed my RSS feeds this week.  James’ thoughts exactly match my excitement for where I believe sound and music is heading.  Increasingly, music and sound are being discussed as essential to human functioning and wellness.  More and more, technology and music are partners in bringing life to new applications and tools that are advancing the health and potential of thousands with brain injuries or developmental disorders.

The latest of these discoveries using brain-computer interfacing (BCI) was made public last week. Eduardo Miranda, a composer and computer music specialist from United Kingdom-based Plymouth University and music therapist Wendy Magee, with the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in London developed a musical interface that allows people with brain injuries the ability to make music with their thoughts.

The brain-computer music interface (BCMI) uses four icons encoded with musical algorithms that are projected on a computer screen. The algorithms allow a person to control a musical note’s tone, pitch, volume and speed as they gaze at the icons with their eyes.  Brainwave impulses are then captured through a network of electrodes meshed in a cap worn on their heads and translated to audible sound.

Magee is encouraged by initial results of the device’s pilot and sees the interface as having broad application for rehabilitation of people with all forms of disability.

“What the latest research is saying is that music is like a mega-vitamin for the brain — it lights up networks, and works across both hemispheres (of the brain),” she said. “Theoretically, we knew that the system should be helpful for people with disability. Now we have the demonstrable proof.”

Like Magee, I believe experiments like these are just the tip of the iceberg in showing technology and music’s potential in bringing self-expression and healing to people who previously had no way to connect with others.  These devices will offer a glimpse into the amazing potential of the brain and give everyone the ability to share their gifts with the world.

Imagine the possibilities.

ATH LogoThis article also appears on All Things Healing a worldwide community of individuals, and alternative healing sites and organizations, dedicated to educating and inspiring people in topics relating to alternative healing of mind, body, spirit and the planet.  



Music Therapy and Sound Healing: What’s the Difference?

In the last year, as I have talked to people about how I want to use sound to heal others, I’ve been asked often, by those who are unfamiliar with either music therapy or of sound healing, “What’s the difference?”

This post is my attempt to explain, through two professionals’ definitions, the differences and similarities within the fields.

In a March 31st post on her blog for Psychology Today, Kimberly Sena Moore had this to say about her work as a music therapist:

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The key I take away from her explanation and of my own understanding, as I have talked with professional and student music therapists is that this form of therapy is process-based and relies heavily on the therapist’s knowledge of music’s structure, rhythm and melody to influence, motivate or effect physical, emotional, or social changes in a person.

With sound healing, as with music therapy, both can use instruments or the voice to impact a client’s wellbeing; both can engage the client in music making.

The differences between music therapy and sound healing, as I understand them, are subtle but distinct: The intent of sound healing is to facilitate and direct specific sounds, and their resulting vibrations, to impact well being. Whether through a complex musical passage, or with a single toned note, the focus is on influencing sound’s energy to bring about change in people and environments.

Here is what Jonathan Goldman, a pioneer in sound healing, had to say about his work:

“… the basic principle of sound healing is that everything is in a state of vibration, including our organs, bones, tissues, etc. If these parts of the body become imbalanced they may be healed through projecting the proper and correct frequencies back into the body. This works for imbalances and over- or under-activity in the chakras and the energy fields.”

So, to summarize, both forms of therapy use music as a basis for impacting clients’ well being. Music therapy bases its protocols on what is known about music’s structure and rhythm to actively engage a client in music making for the purpose of addressing a specific health outcome.

Similarly, sound therapies use music to guide healing, but protocols are not based solely on the process of music listening or creation, but rather on finding and producing specific frequencies, which may be unique to the individual, that then can be directed internally to facilitate healing.

For those of you actively working with clients in either of these therapies, I’d love to hear how you would describe the work that you do.  For those of you who have used both forms of therapy in your practices, what advantages or disadvantages, if any, have you seen?