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Opera Diva Renée Fleming and U neurologists explore the healing power of music.

Music is more than entertainment. It is a powerful medium that ignites all areas of the brain simultaneously. Scientists and musicians are joining forces as part of the Sound Health Initiative, a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the Kennedy Center, to study exactly how music affects the brain.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Health

Norman Foster and Jeffrey Anderson

As part of the initiative, the University of Utah Health welcomes Renée Fleming, opera singer and Artistic Advisor at Large to the Kennedy Center, to campus for her presentation “Music and the Mind.” Fleming will join U of U Health neurologists Norman Foster and Jeffrey Anderson in an exploration of the mysteries of the brain and its connection to music. The event will be held in Libby Gardner Hall at 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2017. Tickets are not required but seating is limited.

Watch a video from the Kennedy Center about the Sound Health Initiative here.

Throughout Fleming’s journey as an artist, she has been struck by music’s power to heal and transform lives. Her presentation explores the role of music in society, including discoveries that are changing our understanding of the brain, especially for the treatment of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

“Alzheimer disease robs a person of their memories, of their past,” said Foster. “Pictures and music help to retrieve these memories.”

Foster and his colleague Anderson, director of the Brain Network Laboratory, will discuss the latest scientific research revealing how music offers a window to understand Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer disease is a very human disease that affects the way we think and feel, said Foster. “The Fine Arts are a uniquely human endeavor and reflects our individual responses to the world. It offers an important window to understanding [this] disease and how it affects the brain.”

The medical community has known about the healing power of music for decades. Music therapy is an established treatment option that addresses a patient’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs through their active participation in music. Neuroscience is now exploring what makes music therapy so effective.

Neuroscience research has revealed that the brains of musicians are different. Musicians have notable thicker gray matter in the region of the brain that lights up for language. Using new technologies, neuroscientists are imaging the brains of musicians as they play or sing a piece of music. By studying how the brain reacts to music, both listening and producing, researchers are learning more about how the brain works with an eye toward developing new therapeutic approaches for conditions as varied as autism, Alzheimer disease and even chronic pain.

“I have become very interested in science and medicine, and I started noticing that more and more there were new neurologic studies on music and the brain,” said Fleming in a Kennedy Center publication. “Then I started seeing these viral videos of patients with Alzheimer’s who were showing progress in being able to communicate [with the help of music therapy] after years of living inside themselves. … I really want this message to get out because if people understood the power of arts in our lives [it would affect the way we make arts accessible to everyone.]”

The Sound Health initiative aims to galvanize broad public interest in the scientific investigation of music and the brain for both a fundamental knowledge and to promote human health.

Fleming will also perform at the Utah Opera gala concert on Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Abravanel Hall, a fundraising gala to support Utah Opera’s education programs.

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Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 | 4 p.m. (doors open at 3:30 p.m.)
Libby Gardner Hall
1375 Presidents Circle
University of Utah

RSVP to Chelsea Kauffman by Sept. 6 at 801-869-9001.[/bs_well]

**Banner image credit Decca/Andrew Eccles