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UToledo Psychologists to Study How Classical Music Might Further PTSD Treatment

Researchers at The University of Toledo are teaming up with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for an innovative project to examine whether classical music could be a useful addition in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

For some patients with PTSD, getting to a place in treatment where they are able to confront their emotions can be overwhelming.

Dr. Jason Rose, left, and Dr. Matthew Tull received a two-year, $80,000 grant through the American Orchestras’ Future Fund to study if classical music could be a useful addition in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Our thinking is that music might provide an alternative way to aid patients in connecting with and expressing their emotions, enabling them to stay in these treatments and hopefully benefit more from them,” said Dr. Matthew Tull, professor of psychology and one of the lead researchers on the project. “We’re not looking at classical music as an alternative treatment for PTSD, but something that might facilitate currently available empirically supported treatments for PTSD.”

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra and UToledo were recently awarded a two-year, $80,000 grant through the American Orchestras’ Future Fund to back the research.

In addition to playing recordings, researchers hope to bring Toledo Symphony Orchestra musicians directly into the clinic to examine if there’s a difference in patients’ reactions to live music.

“We are honored to be one of the 19 orchestras in the U.S. to receive this special grant,” said Zak Vassar, president and chief executive officer of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. “The Futures Fund grant opens many doors for us, and we couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with The University of Toledo on a two-year project exploring the psychological effects of experiencing classical music. Through this collaboration, we are able to advance the state of the performing arts, not just in our community, but across the globe.”

The project’s first year will focus on experiments that examine the effects of bursts of classical music on targeted emotional experiences. Researchers will monitor those effects by testing for both psychological and physiological reactions.

In the second year, researchers will marry their laboratory findings with traditional treatment strategies in the clinic to see what extent classical music can help patients with PTSD.

“Music has such a great emotion-evoking quality about it. There is research on how music affects emotion, but there really hasn’t been much on the impact of classical music on individuals with PTSD. We believe this is an innovative project,” said Dr. Jason Rose, associate professor of psychology and the other lead researcher on the project.

The American Orchestras’ Future Funds program is supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

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