We are Bruyère

News and Stories


New interdisciplinary research institute to explore the impact of music on health and well-being


If popular wisdom holds that music is good for the soul, science is increasingly seeking to better understand how music can affect the body, brain, and mind, as evidenced by the 2020 publication of the first World Health Organization report on health and music.


In response, the newly established University of Ottawa Music and Health Research Institute (MHRI) has made it its core mission to delve deeper into how musical intervention can affect health, developing the knowledge, innovative therapeutic practices, and solutions that can contribute to improving the health of populations.


The driving force behind this interdisciplinary initiative, which stands at the intersection of music, health sciences, social sciences, engineering, and medicine, is Faculty of Arts Professor Gilles Comeau, who has been appointed as director of the Institute for a five-year mandate. He is joined by the MHRI associate director and Faculty of Health Sciences professor Anna Zumbansen, who will bring her own complementary expertise to the Institute’s leadership.


“We want the Institute to become recognized as a major research hub and a reference in the field of music and health. A place where scholars, clinicians, caregivers, and music educators can exchange knowledge and work together to investigate and demonstrate, through a science-based approach, the benefits of music practice and therapy on physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health,” says Gilles Comeau.


Born out of Comeau’s vision and leadership, the MHRI will roll out interdisciplinary, participatory, and action-based research initiatives to measure how learning and practicing music can affect children with hearing loss, seniors with cognitive and motor impairments, as well as people suffering from mental health problems.


The MHRI is a cradle for interdisciplinary research partnerships that bring together top talents from the faculties of Arts, Health Sciences and Social Sciences, and the Professional Development Institute at the University of Ottawa. The Institute has also partnered with external organizations, including: Carleton University; the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Mental Health Research at The Royal, the Bruyère Research Institute, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) (Education), and the Lotus Centre for Specialized Music Education. These partners will contribute their expertise to a roster of forward-thinking and scientifically creative initiatives.


“Music Making with Elderly People” is a major research initiative that the Institute will carry out with The Royal and Bruyère. It will examine how the brain functions responsible for attention, balance, gait, or a patient’s psychological and mental state can be affected by multi-tasking musical interventions that combine rhythmic bodily movements, ear training, tapping, clapping, vocal or instrumental improvisation, and playing percussion instruments. This partnership will give the uOttawa-based project an additional foothold at the Orléans-based campus of Bruyère and at The Royal, thus giving the project better access to a larger pool of seniors and patients with whom to push forward research.


“We are particularly excited to partner with the MHRI at uOttawa to generate and apply new knowledge to serve people living with mental illness”, says Florence Dzierszinski, who is president of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Mental Health Research at The Royal and vice-president, research, at The Royal. “We particularly look forward to our first project, which focuses on music and aging, and will see the establishment of a music and mental health research clinic, which will be designed by researchers, clinicians, program leaders, and people with lived expertise, and will be connected to our cutting-edge technological platforms, including our Brain Imaging Centre,” says Dzierszinski.


We are excited to be a key partner with the new Music and Health Research Institute and further study the benefits of music at Bruyère," says Heidi Sveistrup, CEO and chief scientific officer of the Bruyère Research Institute and vice-president, research, and academic affairs at Bruyère. "The science is clear – music making and moving to music have important cognitive, emotional and physical health benefits.”


Read the full article here.