Boundaries and potentials of traditional and alternative neuroscience research methods in music therapy research
Furthermore, because music therapy by definition is an interpersonal experience involving client and therapist, and the therapy process depends “upon not merely the music, but also the client’s experience of it” (p. 115, Bruscia, 2014),
Cognitive Neuroscience for Music Therapy
Cognitive Neuroscience (CNS) as a discipline has generated fascinating insights into the structure and functions of the human brain, with near-daily revelations regarding the complex nature of the nervous system. Music psychologists and CNS researchers have discovered brain structures and networks related to music processing of many kinds, including music perception, emotion and music, and sensory processing and music. Other research has focused on the effects of music training on processes such as cognition, emotion, self-regulation, learning, and neuroendocrine functions. Other discoveries include the mirror neuron system, showing how the brain processes perception and translates it into action, as well as the principle of neuroplasticity, where neural pathways can shift and become stronger with repeated use and training. All of these discoveries have had major implications in music therapy practice, especially for clinicians who work primarily with brain injury and disease. The recent media coverage (e.g.,Moise, 2011) of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery from an attacker’s gunshot wound to her left temporal lobe has highlighted ways music therapists have used this knowledge in neurological rehabilitation.
Limits of CNS for Music Therapy
Music is assumed to be an object which can be operationalized as a “stimulus,” this ignores the socially-constructed meanings of music which are created within and across cultures and groups.
The Future for Music Therapy Research
For CNS to incorporate the interpersonal, subjective, and contextual factors inherent in music therapy, researchers must first be very clear about their epistemological stances in their research, while also considering other perspectives. Each perspective has strengths and limitations, and requires appropriate expertise in a research context.
The philosopher Wilber (2000) has created a model to help conceptualize phenomena in all its forms and permutations (Figure 1). This model, called the Four Quadrants, has been applied to music therapy as well (Bruscia, 1998) to help delineate different clinical phenomena and approaches. The quadrants are organized in a matrix of “Interior” vs. “Exterior” phenomena, combined with “Individual” vs. “Collective” phenomena. For this paper, I will focus on the top two quadrants, “Exterior-Individual” and “Interior-Individual.”