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Current Research Projects

Effect of Vibrotactile and Music Stimulation on Dementia

This study is conducted by Dr. Lee Bartel, Susan Zorz, Danielle Nicholls and myself at the Glebe Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate Rhythmic Sound Stimulation (RSS) on the arousal of neural activity in persons with dementia: applied rhythmically to the body as low frequency sound and transmitted to the brain through the sensory system as well as the impact of listening to preferred music on a speaker. In this study half of the participants will receive low frequency sound stimulation at 40Hz to stimulate the brain through the somatosensory system (body). We plan to assess any effects of this stimulation on alertness, clarity, and short-term memory of persons with AD. The Sound Oasis VTS1000 has been selected to provide the 40-Hz somatosensory stimulation. The other half of participants will listen to preferred music on a speaker for their treatment.

An Explanatory Sequential Inquiry on Music Therapy and Performance Anxiety in University Music Education Majors

The purpose of this study is to evaluate music therapy techniques in helping music education majors with the occurrence of performing anxiety. Performance anxiety is a significant concern for musicians at large, including music educators. Music therapy is a proven therapy to help reduce anxiety. While this therapy is valuable, there are few studies investigating the efficacy and benefit of music therapy to potentially reduce the frequency and/or occurrence of performance anxiety in University music students, including music education majors.

Funding: This study received a total of $5000 grant funding form the Joint Consortium of Research & the Institute for Music in Canada. 

Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation and Alzheimer's Disease

Our team continues to explore Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation and Alzheimer's Disease after the successful pilot. We have published a few papers listed below. 

1.Clements-Cortés, A., Ahonen, H., Evan, M., Freedman, M. & Bartel, L. (2016). Short term effects of rhythmic sensory stimulation in Alzheimer’s disease: An exploratory pilot study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 52(2), 651-660. DOI 10.3233/JAD-160081

2.Clements-Cortés, A. Ahonen, H., Freedman, M. & Bartel, L. (2017). The Potential of Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation Treatments for Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease. Music and Medicine, 9(3), 167-173

3.Clements-Cortés, A. Ahonen, H., Evans, M., Tang-Wai, D., Freedman, M. & Bartel, L. (2017). Can Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation Decrease Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's Disease?: A Clinical Case Study. Music and Medicine, 9(3), 174-177.


This project was led by the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) in collaboration with the Baycrest Centre, and the Manfred & Penny Conrad Institute for Music Therapy Research at Laurier University. A collaboration with Dr. Morris Freedman, Head of Neurology, and Medical Director of the Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest; Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto; Heidi Ahonen, PhD, RP, MTA, Director of the Manfred & Penny Conrad Institute for Music Therapy Research, Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University; and Lee Bartel, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto.

This study assessed the effect of stimulating the somatosensory system of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients at three stages of their illness with 40Hz sound. In this AB cross-over study design, 18 participants (6 mild, 6 moderate, 6 severe) each participated in 13 sessions: one intake and 12 treatment. Treatment A consisted of 40 Hz sound stimulation and Treatment B consisted of visual stimulation using DVDs, each provided twice a week over 6 weeks for a total of 6 times per treatment. Outcome measures included: St. Louis University Mental Status Test (SLUMS), Observed Emotion Rating Scale, and behavioural observation by the researcher. Data were submitted to regression analysis for the series of 6 SLUMS scores in treatment A and 6 scores in B with comparison by group. The slopes for the full sample and subgroups in the 40Hz treatment were all significant beyond alpha =.05 while those for the DVD were not. A thematic analysis of qualitative observations supported the statistical findings. 40 Hz treatment appeared to have the strongest impact on persons with mild and moderate AD. Results are promising in terms of a potential new treatment for persons with AD, and further research is needed.

Funding: This study received a total of $100 000 grant funding from the Music and Health Research Collaboratory, secured through private donation by Dr. Heidi Ahonen.

Additional Studies

“Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation and Alzheimer's Disease”: A collaborative series of research studies with Drs. Lee Bartel, Heidi Ahonen, Morris Freedman, Michael Evan and David Tang-Wai. Our team is continuing to explore Rhythmic Sensory Stimulation through additional case studies.

“Feasibility of Using Vibroacoustic Gamma Stimulation in Advanced Dementia Context”: A collaboration with Matthew McPhee, Drs. Yael Goldberg, Morris Freedman and Lee Bartel.
This study assesses the feasible implementation of a portable Vibroacoustic device in a sample of older adults with severe behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, who are receiving treatment in an inpatient hospital unit.

Development and Applicability of a Standardized Music Therapy Assessment Tool: Pilot Investigation

A collaborative study with Kensington Health, Taylor Kurta and Nadine Persaud.

The purpose of this study is to pilot an empirically developed, comprehensive domain-based Music Therapy Assessment Tool that can be used with multiple populations/diagnoses. This study aims to establish content and face validity of the Music Therapy Assessment Tool for older adults and its application with a variety of other populations. The tool will be piloted in a long-term care facility, where individuals (residents) are diagnosed with a variety of health issues, and in several private music therapy practices in Ontario.

Group Singing to Support Social Wellbeing and Communication in Adults

Principle Investigator: Dr. Frank Russo, Amy Clements-Cortes -Collaborator

The current project considers group singing as a meaningful social activity for people living with Communication disorders (CD) that appears to have potential to support communication function. While other effective interventions already exist for supporting communication deficits
in CD, they are highly medicalized, and generally not effective with regard to combatting social wellbeing issues related to CD. Thus, group singing for CD appears to be worthy of further consideration from scientific, practical, economic, and ethical standpoints.