Ferrer and Summers Receive Research Funding

Team One of Six Projects to bring together music therapy and neuroscience thanks to NIH award

Ferrer and Summers Headshots

The National Institutes of Health and The National Endowment for the Arts awarded funding to a Belmont professor team to pursue a research study, bringing together music therapy and neuroscience.

Along with Vanderbilt Otolaryngology Professor Dr. Miriam Lense, Coordinator of Belmont’s Music Therapy Program Dr. Alejandra Ferrer and Music Therapy Professor Adam Summers will embark on the study titled “Musical Rhythm Sensitivity to Scaffold Social Engagement in Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Their research will study musical rhythm synchronization as a mechanism of healthy social development and how that is disrupted in children with autism spectrum disorder, with the goal of developing music interventions for social communication.

“We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Lense, and we look forward to supporting the autism community through this research study,” said Ferrer and Summers.

The study is one of six to receive part of the $20 million the NIH/NEA awarded over five years. This study will also serve Belmont students as a practicum training opportunity and will begin in January. 

Broadly, the NIH/NEA funding will support the first research projects of the Sound Health initiative to explore the potential of music for treating a wide range of conditions resulting from neurological and other disorders. The National Endowment for the Arts contributed funds toward these awards.

While music therapy has been in practice for many years, Sound Health research aims to advance understanding of music’s mechanism of action in the brain and how it may be applied more broadly to treat symptoms of disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, chronic pain and many more. As with the Belmont professor team, the research will also seek to understand the effect of music on the developing brain of children.