Music Therapy and Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges


  • Julian Winn O'Kelly Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, Queen Mary University



music therapy, neuroscience, methods, fMRI, EEG, neurophysiological, neurochemical, neurological


Human responses to music may be viewed through a neuroscience lens with increasingly sophisticated neuroimaging technology, providing neurological and biomedical measures of psychological states. These developments have been harnessed in collaborative research investigations seeking to develop the therapeutic applications of music. As a consequence of these collaborations, neuroscientific understanding is emerging of how music therapy may support improvements in cognition, movement and emotional regulation, as well as helping us to explore the neurological aspects of therapeutic relationships. This paper provides an overview of this field of investigation, focussing on the significant areas of progress in work with those living with stroke, neurodegenerative conditions, affective disorders, disorders of consciousness, autism, cancer and palliative conditions. Advances, challenges and opportunities associated with using neuroscience methods to develop the evidence base for music therapy will be explored from the perspective of a music therapy clinician and researcher.

Author Biography

Julian Winn O'Kelly, Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, Queen Mary University

Julian O’Kelly, PhD, MSC, BA (Hons), Dip MT, has worked as a clinician, manager, educationalist, and researcher, regularly presenting at international symposia and conferences.He has written extensively around his areas of interest and expertise in palliative care, neuro-disability, assessment tools and the neuroscience of music therapy, and is associate editor for the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience research topic ‘Dialogues in music therapy and music neuroscience: collaborative understanding driving clinical advances’.He is currently a Senior Researcher on the SYNCHRONY study investigating music therapy which chronic depression with Dr Catherine Carr at Queen Mary University.As Honorary Research Fellow at the Royal Hospital for neuro-disability, he is also lead investigator on a study exploring music therapy rehabilitation with disorders of consciousness, and a further study to validate the ‘SMART Tracker’ with this population.




How to Cite

O’Kelly, J. W. (2016). Music Therapy and Neuroscience: Opportunities and Challenges. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 16(2).