People seem to be naturally drawn to music as a form of therapy, and researchers are working hard to scientifically support the concept.

Though the role of music in health care has not become part of the mainstream, yet, research currently under way could expand the clinical use of such things as of singing and songwriting to improve health.

Vanderbilt University has made a big commitment to the effort by creating an interdisciplinary-focused unit called the Program for Music, Mind & Society at Vanderbilt. The program is designed to leverage teaching and research at Vanderbilt with the access to practicing musicians that being in “Music City” provides.

“There are a number of initiatives going on campus, but it was sort of in silos,” says Reyna Gordon, associate director of the program and assistant professor of otolaryngology for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


Pictured: Reyna Gordon, associate director of the Vanderbilt program, runs a pilot test with her daughter.

“People didn’t necessarily know what the others were doing,” says Gordon, who also is director of Vandy’s Music Cognition Lab. In the picture above, Gordon works on conducting a pilot test with her daughter several years ago. The lab, which targets research in the role rhythm skills play in language development and disorders facilitates interaction between faculty members in neuroscience, psychology, and education, as well as audiologists, speech language pathologists, physicians, musicians, engineers and students.

That fits into Vanderbilt’s broader goal of trying to provide a forum for igniting collaboration across disciplines to get people to think about their music-related research from a new perspective, possibly taken from outside their discipline.

Some of the more advanced research concerns the use of music both pre-and post-surgery among children to improve outcomes, incorporating music into autism treatment and using songwriting as a means for soldiers to help recover from PTSD.

And looking much farther down the line, research is getting started to see how music might affect hospital length of stay, she says.

As part of its effort to spread interaction, the Program for Music, Mind & Society is holding a free symposium bringing together research and music called the Science of Song, which will be held Sept. 12 in Nashville.

Finally, Gordon, like seemingly everyone in Nashville, also has musical talent, she sings. But she says she has no connection as inspiration or otherwise for the similarly named Rayna Jaymes, the fictional Nashville country superstar.