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Exhibition to highlight the healing power of the arts

This Friday, Redux Contemporary Art Center and the MUSC Health Arts in Healing program open Studies Show... an exhibition from MUSC's permanent collection that aims to highlight Redux’s outreach program and raise awareness about MUSC Health’s Arts in Healing program.

The arts are increasingly connected to health care thanks to new research and the development of artistic interventions in health care environments that create activities designed to support patient healing. Studies Show… highlights artworks from the Arts In Healing’s collection alongside medical research to both justify and advocate for the inherent healing powers of the arts. Through a reconsideration of MUSC’s permanent art collection alongside new acquisitions, this exhibition chronicles the advancements of the arts in healing. “We are honored to work with Redux to highlight the healing power of the arts,” said Arts in Healing Manager Kate Hinson Sullivan, MPS, LCAT, ATR-BC. "Whether it be antiquated portraits, meditative landscapes, or narrative stories, the artworks in this exhibition challenge us to further consider representations, changing aesthetics, and a visually driven process of healing.” The public is encouraged to take a closer look and help MUSC Health envision a shared future "that radiates outside our hospitals and into the communities we care for," according to a news release. The exhibit is available for viewing by the public from July 29 through Sept. 10. The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Friday, July 29 from 5-8 p.m. To learn more about Arts in Healing and its offerings at MUSC Health visit http://MUSChealth.org/arts or email artsinhealing@musc.edu. Studies Show... is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday noon-3 p.m., and by appointment. Redux Contemporary Art Center is located at 1056 King Street, Charleston. Free.
REDUX CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering creativity and the cultivation of contemporary art through diverse exhibitions, subsidized studio space for visual artists, meaningful education programs, and a multidisciplinary approach to the dialogue between artists and their audiences.

Jason Rapp

Help and healing through the arts

We are all in this together, you and I.

Sometimes things are grand. Peachy. Sunshine-y with clear skies and, preferably, low humidity. Cake and ice cream—or the treats your genetics let you enjoy comfortably. Other times, things aren't. As a result, we might need a little help.

Making their way to Hub HQ this week were two news stories of great interest to our mission. The stories go right to how the arts intersect with well-being, illustrating perfectly how they are put to use to help when your metaphorical skies are stormy or your ice cream cone topples to the hot pavement. The South Carolina Arts Commission envisions all people benefiting "from a variety of creative experiences." Those benefits are wide-ranging and depend on many things. For example, we've seen recently how they lend themselves to public health. Today, we share stories about their positive effects on other health matters, specifically mental health.

Art therapy in Charleston County schools

A December report out of Charleston County schools showed alarming increases in suicide assessments, so the district is mobilizing to address the mental health needs of its students. How? You guessed it; with the arts. Reporting by WCSC-TV 5 in Charleston reveals that a new program: "one-hour, once a week art therapy classes at five schools," according to Live 5 News' Nick Reagan. The program is in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina. The Hub supports local journalism and doesn't wish to plagiarize. We will stop there and encourage you to go check out Reagan's reporting for more on this story.

California arts learning project goes viral

The Hub covers South Carolina arts, but we're not limited to those borders. Once you call the "Peptoc Hotline" from California elementary school students, you'll be grateful. (We have, and we are.) We will use the CNN coverage here, but they and others have covered this story about a "public art project from students at West Side Elementary School in Healdsburg, California, [that is] designed to offer positive and encouraging mantras to help everyone through this trying time." Long story short, the school's art teacher Jessica Martin put together recordings of the students offering hotline callers encouragement, positivity, a smile, and maybe some lifted spirits. You try not to smile after a pep talk from a kindergartener, or after choosing our favorite, option 4 (a looped recording of the children laughing).

The name for the project came from Martin's 6-year-old son. Once the artist had captured all the recordings, she asked her son to use his special block letters to create a flyer to advertise the hotline. She purposely gave him no direction beyond what she thought would be the name: "Peptalk." He sounded out the words and mistakenly spelled them as "Peptoc," which Martin loved for its honesty and unintentional reference to TikTok. The name stuck.

The hotline might be limited to the remainder of the school year unless outside funding allows for it to continue beyond that. When you're ready for your "Peptoc," call 707.998.8410. The hotline is free, but charges might apply from your phone service provider.

Jason Rapp

Arts provide healing touch to war-time trauma

Join the NEA for a webinar

South Carolina's ties to the U.S. Armed Forces run deep.

Generations of airmen, Marines, sailors, and soldiers have trained or been stationed here, and a robust population on veterans of every branch calls our state home. And so The Hub happily shares this blurb from the National Endowment for the Arts knowing it's relevant to many of our constituents:

Join Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network on June 25, 2021, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. ET for a webinar exploring how creative arts therapies can help heal war-time trauma. The webinar will focus on the National Endowment for the Arts’ recent online exhibition Creative Forces: Healing the Invisible Wounds of War. Special guest Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, will join a discussion with retired Navy Capt. Robert Koffman, creative arts therapists, and veterans who have participated in the Creative Forces program and contributed artwork to the exhibition.

American Sign Language interpretation and closed captioning will be provided. Visit the Creative Forces National Resource Center for more information and to register.


Jason Rapp

Can arts therapies improve health for military PTSD patients?

A new study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) reveals that art work created by military service members as part of their medical treatment for psychological health conditions conveys valuable information for doctors. NEAThis benefit is especially important for patients who struggle to express their thoughts and feelings. In another research development, the NEA is posting a framework document that maps new research priorities for the agency’s Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. Both the new study and the research agenda aim to extend knowledge about how, when, and why creative arts therapies improve health for patients coping with the effects of their wartime experiences. The NEA is announcing these two resources as the nation recognizes PTSD Awareness Day on June 27. "The newly published study exemplifies the type of practical research that the Creative Forces network will pursue over the next five years," said Sunil Iyengar, director of Research & Analysis at the NEA. "The researchers will continue to examine how creative arts therapies can inform diagnoses and treatment options for the range of patients experiencing these complex psychological illnesses." [caption id="attachment_35727" align="alignright" width="250"] One of the masks included in the study that demonstrates dentification with military unit (depiction of sense of belonging to a military unit, for example, explosive ordnance disposal badge, also known as the ‘crab’).[/caption] The study, Observational study of associations between visual imagery and measures of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress among active-duty military service members with traumatic brain injury at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, examined masks created by 370 service members in creative arts therapy sessions that were part of their integrative care. Researchers identified and correlated themes observed in those masks with psychological diagnoses. The observational study was led by Girija Kaimal, EdD, of Drexel University, and Melissa Walker, of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence and is being published by the British Medical Journal, an international peer reviewed medical journal. Dr. Kaimal noted, “Few studies in art therapy have linked visual symbols with existing standardized clinical measures. This helps us see if there are patterns of visual representations that relate to psychological states.” During the creative art therapy sessions, service members are asked to embellish a blank mask of a human face using a variety of art supplies in a way that reflects how they feel. The researchers then created an inventory of themes represented in the masks and matched those themes with data collected previously in questionnaires from those patients. The questionnaires measured levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD. The study found that masks that included symbols of the patient’s identify in relation to a military unit or other social group correlated with lower levels of psychological distress. This indicates that the capacity to imagine oneself as part of something larger than one’s individual experiences is associated with lower PTSD, depression, and anxiety scores. Conversely, masks that included fragmented objects, like broken gear or faded camouflage, were tied to higher levels of anxiety, while masks that showed psychological pain matched with patients dealing with more acute PTSD. To enable more research such as this, the National Endowment for the Arts developed the Creative Forces Clinical Research: A Strategic Framework and Five Year Agenda. The research completed as a result of this framework will strengthen the Creative Forces network as well as the military medical and creative arts therapy fields, enhancing the quality of care for military patients. Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the state arts agencies that places creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical clinics across the country. Visit the NEA’s website for more information on Creative Forces and information on additional published research and clinical practice papers associated with Creative Forces.

About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.

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Healing Arts program in Blythewood strives to help soldiers find relief from PTSD

From WIS-TV Reported by Allie Spillyards Follow this link to view the video that accompanies this story.

[caption id="attachment_25052" align="alignright" width="200"]Jim Dukes photography A horse at Big Red Barn Retreat. Photo by Jim Dukes[/caption] A soon-to-launch program in Blythewood aims to help soldiers cope with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder through a creative outlet. Jim Dukes became a photographer after years of dealing with combat-related traumatic brain injuries and alcoholism. With no money to spend, he turned to his cell phone to teach himself photography, finally finding relief from the stress he’d lived with for years. “It provided me another vision in the world around me. You know, I’m trained to find all the things in the world that could harm me: the trip wires and pressure plates. Looking through the lens of my camera allowed me to take that hyper vigilance and attention to detail, but try to focus my mind on the beauty of the world around me as opposed to the danger, so it was both a therapeutic outlet and a physical outlet,” Dukes said. Now he wants to help others do the same. After starting a Healing Arts Program at Tapp’s Art Center in Columbia, he’s bringing the program to Blythewood’s Big Red Barn Retreat. “It’s magical. The Healing Arts programs are more about comraderie. It’s not as much about art as it is people that’ve been through similar experiences sitting around a table in a safe environment,” Dukes said. Participants will use photography, drawing, and writing to fully understand their feelings and find a way to cope. “The ability to create and use those experiences as a source of inspiration to go back and look at and say, ‘Wow I created that,’ or ‘I put that negative energy into this really ugly, red angry…’ Wow that’s how I was feeling, so let’s start talking about what was the genesis of the feelings that created that,” said Dukes. His first session is called Screw You Trauma, and Dukes says it will be real talk about real problems among a group of people dealing with the same thing. It will be held at the Big Red Barn on Feb. 27, and it’s free for active duty military, veterans and their spouses. The session runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes lunch. For more information, visit the Big Red Barn Retreat.

HeARTS Mend Hearts joins with Charleston library to help residents heal through art

Hearts Mend HeartsThe creative art process has been used for hundreds of years to help people identify emotions, encourage communication and promote healing. Understanding this connection, a group of Charleston-area art therapists, educators, mental health professionals and artists joined together to create HEARTS MEND HEARTS in hopes of helping the Charleston community heal in the wake of the Emanuel AME Church tragedy. A new initiative, launched with Charleston County Public Library, is offering support to local residents faced with feelings of stress, dread or grief prompted by the church shootings. Starting Sunday, July 26, local residents can work with experienced artists and mental health professionals during art-based sessions offered three days a week at Charleston County’s Main Library, 68 Calhoun Street. The goal is to help individuals use art as a tool to tap into their creativity, express feelings and ultimately work toward healing – all while in a safe environment. Drop-in art sessions will be offered on Sundays from 2-4:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5-7:30 p.m., and more structured, art-related workshops will be offered on Thursdays from 5-7:30 p.m. All workshops continue through the end of September. There is no age limit and no art experience is needed. Art materials are being provided for the free sessions. Registration is not required. Professionals will lead attendees through the steps to create mandalas, which are considered “healing circles.” This internationally recognized method encourages individuals to tap into their creativity, identify personal emotions, reconcile conflicts and ultimately work toward healing HEARTS MEND HEARTS includes numerous art and mental health professionals, all volunteering their time. The organization was started by a small group that included Registered Art Therapist Dianne Tennyson Vincent, MAT, ATR; Psychiatrist Deborah Milling, MD; Psychoanalyst Sharon Martin, FNP, CNS, PhD; and Nationally Board Certified Art Educator Laura De LaMaza. For more information, contact the Charleston County Public Library, (843) 805-6930. Via: Charleston County Library  

UCLA Medical School’s ‘guest artist’ is helping to teach doctors about disease

From the Huffington Post Article by Priscilla Frank Ted Meyer is the guest artist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. If you weren't aware that medical schools had guest artists, you're not alone. But this initiative is very real, aiming to teach doctors about illness through the practice of art. Yes, Meyer's work brings artists together to help educate future physicians and epidemiologists on the more human aspects of disease. "The artists use their work to tell a story," Los Angeles-based Meyer told The Huffington Post. "It helps the doctors look at people as more than something to cure." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Daphne Hill, Avian Flu Daphne Hill, Avian Flu: "Daphne does work about germs and her fears of them sickening herself and her children. Her talk was interesting as she explained how her fears developed and how doctors might talk with someone like her who has already been checking the Internet and read the possible worst case scenarios."[/caption] Meyer began his stay at the medical school in 2010, though the foundation of his ongoing project began much earlier -- in fact, his inspiration dates back to his birth. "I was born with a very rare genetic condition," said Meyer, who grew up with Gaucher’s disease, a disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs. "There was no treatment for it. Starting at about age 6 I was in and out of the hospital all the time. I grew up thinking maybe I'd make it to thirty, maybe not." Among other things, manifestations of the illness include bruising, fatigue, anemia and skeletal disorders. During his time in the hospital, Meyer turned to art as a means of expression, release and inner healing. Creating imagery filled with skeletal bodies contorted in pain, Meyer's resulting series was titled "Structural Abnormalities." He often made use of the materials around him, incorporating bandages and IVs into his images, all revolving around the idea of, in Meyer's words, "being in a body that didn't work particularly well." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Damienne Merlina, Bandaid Damienne Merlina, Bandaid[/caption] And then, something unexpected happened. Meyer's health began to improve. "I really hit a point where, thanks to Western technology, there was a new treatment. Almost all of my symptoms disappeared," he said. "I had my hip replaced so I could walk normally." Although undoubtedly a miracle in terms of his life and wellbeing, the sudden shift left Meyer directionless as an artist. After a period of uncertainty, Meyer resolved to shift his artistic perspective entirely. While still focused on the body, his work shifted from its "singular and isolated" mode to one more "happy and sexual." More importantly, instead of sharing his own story, he began inviting others to share theirs. For this series, which Meyer dubbed "Scarred for Life," he applies block-print ink to human scars and the skin surrounding them. He then proceeds to press paper to skin, and subsequently accents the images with paint and pencil, turning physical remnants of suffering into inimitable splashes of color and line. Although the project center around scars, the art is less about suffering and more about survival. "I make these prints that look like Rothkos -- color field prints," he said. "I don't want [to emphasize] the shock value of, 'Oh, look how disfigured they look.' For me, it's a story more like mine: let's make the best out of this that we can from this point forward." [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="900"]Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy[/caption] Meyer explained the intense reactions he received in response to the works, which toured everywhere from the United Nations to the Pasadena Armory; reactions of an intensity he never experienced when painting. "People would come look at my work and just sort of break down crying," he said. "Others came up to me and said, 'Look at my scar, let me tell you about my scar.'" He was receiving emails twice a week from people all around the world, all wanting to share their personal scar story. This gave Meyer an idea. With so many people grappling with illness and using art as an outlet, perhaps their creative efforts could serve as a means of unorthodox education as well. "It became very apparent to me that all these people who do work about their illnesses, really have a lot to say," Meyer said. "Maybe they could teach something to medical professionals. There has been art therapy designed to help patients, but I thought maybe there is something to teach the doctors here. Perhaps they can look at patients' artworks and see something beyond the clinical. It's not just 'oh, they have multiple sclerosis' or 'it's a broken neck.' In a way, it's like art therapy for doctors." As a result, for the past five years, Meyer has served as a guest artist at the UCLA's medical school, a position he carved out and created for himself, curating artist talks and exhibitions that serve to educate the medical staff. In particular, Meyer's programming is designed for first and second year medical students, most of whom have not yet had an opportunity to work with patients in person. To provide future doctors with more tangible understanding of living with certain afflictions, artists speak about their condition, their artworks, and the relationship between the two. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="570"]Susan Trachman, Order #2 Susan Trachman, Order #2 Susan has MS and does work about organization and control as she has less control over her body. He media is all the old medical supplies used in her treatment[/caption] Mainly, his position entails recruiting and curating a network of artists exploring issues of illness and identity, inviting them to show their work and tell their stories. The conditions represented are as diverse as the artistic media explored. "There is a woman Susan who has multiple sclerosis," Meyer said, "and for 25 years she's been keeping all the bottles she's used -- all the saline and everything -- she takes them and she organizes them in patterns. She explained to the medical students that when you have MS you have absolutely no control over your body. You can't predict your own movements. But by organizing these bottles, she had found one area she could control." Meyer's program caters to doctors who, though familiar with all the technicalities of medical proceedings, aren't as well versed in the human aspects of the profession. "There are a number of doctors who are very smart but when they get on the floor and have to start dealing with patients they break down," he said. Especially today, many doctors don't have the proper time to truly get to know their patients, the ways their various struggles have shaped the people they are. "There was another woman who had a headache for around four years. During that period she had lost her ability to name things, she couldn't remember the nouns. When she finally got rid of her migraine, she went back and photographed all the things she couldn't remember. For someone to tell their story to first year med students -- it's not just, 'Oh, you have a headache, what medicine should I give you?' It's a new way to understand the life process of living with an illness." Meyer's unorthodox merging of art and medicine proves that art therapy isn't only helpful for patients, but doctors as well. "It's a new way to connect," Meyer said. "We are making positive things out of these horrible situations."   Image above: Ted Meyer, Scarred for Life: Meyer uses block-print ink to transform human scars into vibrant colorful abstractions in his "Scarred for Life" series, inviting others to share the physical remnants of their survival stories. Find more images of art works online.

Cancer patients chronicle journeys through 20 years of Healing Icons

From ColaDaily.com:

Article by Rachel Ham Physicians around the globe are researching drugs to fight cancer and beat the disease that’s claimed so many lives. A local artist is using simpler tools like paper and pastels to bring healing, hope and renewal. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"]Healing Icons Participants use word association to express feelings of anxiety and joy. (photo by Rachel Ham)[/caption] Heidi Darr-Hope held her first art class for cancer patients 20 years ago. As the sole instructor and executive director of Healing Icons, she’s impacted hundreds of survivors one session at time. “We are all artists, I like to say,” she said. About 20 participants gather at a meeting room at Lexington Medical Center for the monthly Lunch & Learn. Some are in remission, others come straight from a doctor’s appointment in another area of the hospital. Some have received their frightening diagnosis just days before joining the group. Healing Icons uses creativity to confront fears, reduce stress and form a community of cancer survivors. Darr-Hope teaches participants during those monthly Lunch & Learn sessions to put away their reservations, to not be afraid to make mistakes and to express their feelings through various mediums. “(Healing Icons classes) got me on a path to doing better,” said Linda DeLeonardis, a breast cancer survivor. Research has shown patients who attend support groups like Healing Icons have reduced “tension, anxiety and tiredness … (and a) lower … risk of depression,” according to the American Cancer Society. DeLeonardis said past projects like collages gave her an avenue to share her story with others. Many of her finished works now hang in her home. “They were that important to me,” she said. “It’s beautiful what comes out of the group,” Darr-Hope said. Darr-Hope said the classes aren’t meant to be a distraction from treatment but instead a place to identify and address things that are causing anxiety. When instructing on mandalas, a “sacred circle” used to unearth wisdom, she asked last week’s group to write down words they “see.” Words like “hope,” “peace,” “road” and even “stress” were revealed in the curves and colors of the mandalas they drew. “Don’t judge the words that come,” Darr-Hope said. “Let go and see what comes … There’s no right or wrong way to do this.” Darr-Hope also challenged artists to let happy memories surface as they created new shapes inside their mandalas. Past participants have published compilations of their “icons,” or self-portraits of their survival stories using numerous materials. They say Healing Icons gave them a respite from thinking about their illness that but classes are far from a “no cancer talk” zone. People are encouraged to share their fears and breakthroughs by talking with fellow classmates about what they’ve created. DeLeonardis said the open-armed community helped her process not only her own diagnosis but also the death of her husband, who also had cancer. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"]Healing Icons Heidi Darr-Hope gives patients the tools and techniques to get started on a journey of expression. (photo by Rachel Ham)[/caption] “It’s easy to talk to people with the same experience,” she said. “It’s good to see people open up.” Caregivers often are sitting around the table with their paintbrushes and pencils, too. Evelyn Anderson first came with her daughter Jill, who was diagnosed with colon cancer. “It helped both of us and was a real inspiration,” Anderson said. Leaning on the Healing Icons community and having a creative outlet at her fingertips allowed Anderson to work through her grief when Jill passed away. “It gets to be like a real family,” she said. Darr-Hope said she thinks her brother’s death at a young age from brain cancer propelled her towards the arts and to one day found a nonprofit to help others through art. She has been recognized for her work with Healing Icons with the 2011 Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award from South Carolina Arts Commission and the 2011 Twin (Tribute to Women in Industry) Award in Health and Wellness from the Palmetto Center for Women. Joining Darr-Hope in keeping Healing Icons’ mission going is a board of directors and volunteer ambassadors. Darr-Hope asks those who’ve been through the process and are several years into remission to serve as ambassadors and be the welcoming committee for visitors. “It’s good to have them around for the newly diagnosed … They provide a comforting presence,” she said. Healing Icons is developing an e-course for cancer patients who aren’t able to come in person. The e-course will allow them to work through projects with family and friends. A series of quarterly retreats is another new addition to Healing Icons. Darr-Hope has organized a spring, summer, autumn and winter retreat lasting from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each Saturday. All supplies are provided, but registration is required. Healing Icons is supported by the Lexington Medical Center Foundation and the Center for Colon Cancer Research at USC but relies heavily on private donors. The nonprofit is one of the 252 organizations participating in 2015 Midlands Gives on May 5. More information about Healing Icons is available here. The next Lunch & Learn is scheduled for noon May 6.

When music is medicine for kids coping with cancer

From PBS News Hour:

Whether for relaxation or rehabilitation, music helps cancer patients cope and fulfill physical and emotional needs. Video produced by Laila Kazmi, shot by Aileen Imperial and edited by Greg Davis, KCTS 9. When she was 21-months-old, Allistaire was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Now four, she has spent more than half her life in and out of cancer hospitals. Her schedule includes exhaustive medical treatments, but there’s one session she looks forward to each week: music therapy with Betsy Hartman. For patients who need exercise, but feel too exhausted because of the harsh medicines and treatments they are receiving, music provides a physical outlet. “When you have a guitar, a drum or a maraca in your hand, sometimes you can’t help but dance,” said Hartman, who works solely with patients in the Cancer Unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital. [caption id="attachment_19465" align="alignright" width="236"]Allistaire Allistaire plays the maracas. Photo courtesy of KCTS 9[/caption] References to the use of music for therapeutic purposes date back to ancient times and across cultures. In the United States, the field gained official recognition in 1950 with the establishment of the National Association of Music Therapy. However, music therapy work was happening in the U.S. long before that. It was in the early 1800s when Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry, advocated for music as a therapeutic tool. Two of Rush’s students went on to write dissertations about the use of music as therapy. A life-altering diagnosis and subsequent treatments can be emotionally taxing. For many of Hartman’s school-age patients, treatment means missing school, friends and their daily routine. “For kids, that’s hard,” Hartman said. “So, as music therapists, we work with patients to express some of those feelings through songwriting or listening to different lyrics.” David Knott, also a music therapist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has been practicing music therapy for over ten years. While Hartman is dedicated to the Cancer Unit, Knott works across the hospital and sees children with many different ailments. [caption id="attachment_19467" align="alignright" width="259"]Betsy Hartman Music therapist Betsy Hartman plays the harp. Photo courtesy of KCTS 9[/caption] “There is a lot of interest from neuroscientists in examining how music is processed in the brain, and some really interesting studies are being done or have been done,” says Knott. Research conducted by Dr. Robert Zatorre and his team, for example, found that dopamine was released when listening to music. “Music activates reward centers in the brain,” Knott said. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that music can help with short-term pain reduction, as well as help reduce anxiety and nausea caused by chemotherapy. For Hartman, working with her young patients is a deeply rewarding experience for her. “I can only imagine that it must be one of the most vulnerable and scary times in their lives, and the fact that they let me come in and offer something like music to them is an honor.”

Researchers aim to determine whether the arts can treat Alzheimer’s

From the Washington Post: Story by Fredrick Kunkle

As rock-and-roll fills a sunny recreation room at Birmingham Green in Manassas, residents of the assisted-living facility seem swept up in the music as if by a powerful wind.

Brett Sigmundsson, 52, belts out the lyrics of a Beatles tune while dancing in place with all the vigor of a middle-aged Mick Jagger. John Archer, 64, rises to his feet in dance. Up front, Norma Felter, 85, a former department store clerk whose eyes are glued to a TV screen showing the lyrics for “Hey Jude,” sings into a microphone, not always in sync with the words but joyfully all the same. Even those whose thoughts appear far away sometimes sway or tap their fingers in time to the beat. The karaoke session is a popular draw at the facility. But music, art and dance sessions like these are also the subject of intensifying interest among the scientific community. As the nation’s median age rises and baby boomers retire, the federal government, universities and health-care institutions are seeking to determine whether the arts have a quantifiably therapeutic effect on people with Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related disabilities. Many researchers agree evidence seems promising that the arts can improve cognitive function and memory, bolster a person’s mood and sense of well-being, and reduce stress, agitation and aggression. But many previous studies have been too limited or poorly designed to say for sure. [caption id="attachment_17490" align="alignleft" width="301"]Alzheimer's research George Moseley in front of a mural he painted in an empty room at Birmingham Green, an elder care residence in Manassas, Va., on Nov. 21. Painting “helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)[/caption] The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health and others are pushing for more answers. At Birmingham Green, researchers from George Mason University are conducting a federally subsidized study to examine the impact of the arts on the emotional and cognitive health of older adults. “There still needs to be a lot of work done,” said Sunil Iyengar, who heads the Office of Research and Analysis at the NEA. Iyengar said research into the effect of art on people with cognitive impairments has suffered from a lack of rigor. Too many studies lacked proper controls, involved samples that were too small, and were poorly defined. They also may have been looking for the wrong thing, Iyengar said. While searching for hard evidence of biological improvements in memory or cognition, many also overlooked measurable improvements in the mood and well-being of people with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, too. In a paper titled “Shall I Compare Thee to a Dose of Donepezil,” researchers Kate de Medeiros and Anne Basting called for developing research models that would better suit interventions that involve the imagination and meaningful personal experiences, instead of those that have been used to test clinical efficacy of pharmaceuticals. “I think these are the so-called intangibles that we as a society have tended to underplay,” Iyengar said. “These are really devastating diseases for these people and their families, and anything you can do to reduce that pain is important.” The National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the NEA and NIH, convened a public workshop in March 2011 to investigate ways to bolster research into arts-related interventions for aging adults. Several studies have hinted at the promise of integrating the arts into therapy for age-related disabilities. Dance and movement have been shown to help older people avoid falls. Acting sessions can strengthen the sense of social ties and community, a critical need for people whose cognitive impairment can lead to isolation. Interventions using everything from drum circles to poetry have been shown to improve psychological symptoms, such as aggression, in patients with cognitive impairment. [caption id="attachment_17492" align="alignright" width="288"]Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) Norma Felter sings “Hey Jude” with activity aide Tina Burhans-Robinson during karaoke at Birmingham Green. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)[/caption] Music has been found to have a particularly strong effect on cognitive function. Research has shown that musical training can help older people distinguish speech better, particularly amid background noise. People recovering from brain injuries, such as a stroke, have been shown to sing words and phrases that they might not otherwise be able to speak. Performing music also relies heavily on memory and understanding of visual and sound patterns. For these reasons, people with musical training may weather the effects of aging better than non-musicians. “But outside of these things is sheer joy,” said Gary Glazner, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Glazner said he was working at an adult day-care center in Northern California and searching for ways to connect with people with Alzheimer’s disease when he discovered the power of poetry to reach people with cognitive impairment. Having studied poetry in college, Glazner shared Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and The Song” with a resident and from the first line — “I shot an arrow” — hit the mark. Glazner uses poetry, particularly beloved classics learned by older adults, in call-and-response with older people and guides them in writing poems. Jump-rope rhymes, even military cadences, can evoke responses from people with cognitive impairment that engage them, he said. Holly C. Matto, a professor of social work at GMU who is conducting the experiment at Birmingham Green, said people with cognitive impairment often feel overwhelmed by their inability to process and integrate information from their surroundings. Using the arts, particularly nonverbal arts such as painting and music, can help restore a sense of organizing their world. “Those nonverbal ways of communicating are not impaired,” she said. Her 18-month study, supported in part by a $25,000 grant from the NEA, involves taking groups of 10 randomly assigned people and engaging them in twice-weekly sessions using music, imagery and movement. (There is also a control group.) Those who participate in the study are invited to choose music for the group to listen to and then let their imaginations and memories roam. They also use painting to express what they feel in the music. And they are invited to dance. (Study guidelines forbid observing the study itself, but a reporter was allowed to observe other art programs at the center.) “The hypothesis is that after folks participate in this study, the people will show an improvement in mood and possibly a change in cognitive function,” Matto said. She said the study subjects and control group are to be evaluated before and after the sessions begin using accepted clinical tools, such as the Profile of Mood States, cognitive assessments and the Geriatric Depression Scale, to evaluate whether the sessions have any lasting impact on the subjects’ mood or well-being. “It makes me happy,” said Felter, who had been rocking to the Beatles from her wheelchair. She said the music helps her adjust to the stresses of living in a communal setting. Kathryn Dodd, 65, who lived in Ashburn before moving to Birmingham Green, said listening to tunes by James Taylor and Mary J. Blige allowed her mind to wander to pleasant memories from years ago. “Music brings memories. I basically try to remember the good times — I don’t like to dwell on the bad times — and music brings those out,” Dodd said. “I got a lot out of it.” All over Birmingham Green are visual reminders of the relief art can bring. George D. Moseley, 70, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, said his love of painting vivid murals of flowers, birds and landscapes — all showing the influence of Thomas Hart Benton and years of formal training at the Corcoran School of Art — has been instrumental in helping manage a lifelong cognitive disability, instead of medication. He describes his art in almost religious terms, saying the activity delivers him from the bondage of his condition. “It helps me to manage and cope, to have a positive attitude,” he said. “The paintbrush and the art give me an outlook and a feeling of serenity and peace, love, and joy. The paintbrush is the treatment for all else that has failed.”