Review of Vogl et al., "Neuroscientific and neuroanthropological perspectives in music therapy research and practice with patients with disorders of consciousness"
by Jennifer Fortunato
This paper by Vogl et al. (2015) discusses neuroanthropological perspectives on music therapy. The authors illustrate how using research and behavioral observation of patients with disorders of consciousness has assisted in developing music therapy to assist in the well being of these patients. They also state that music therapy has been helpful both in neural and behavioral rehabilitation in patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS). The authors emphasize that neuroscience isn’t the only avenue for knowledge and cannot capture the meaning of music therapy for patients. This is where the neuroanthropology perspective comes into play to bridge the gap between research and therapeutic practices with an integrated, broad approach and interpretation of results.
The authors discuss both the neuroanthropological and anthropological approaches to music therapy. The neuroanthropological approach is using neuroimaging techniques and multidisciplinary methods to conduct research with the patient and not on the patient. The anthropological approach is to engage the culture of the individual through sensual perception and experience of music to help regain mental and physical stability, which can vary from person to person. The authors share a quote from Simon Rattle (2004): “music is not just what it is, but is that what it means to the people” which I think embodies this type of approach to music therapy very well.
The neuroanthropological perspective in music therapy research is discussed next. This section exemplifies this type of perspective by examining two cases of UWS. The researchers took positron emission tomography (PET) scans of two patient’s brains which showed that after 5 weeks of music therapy, brain activity had increased in 3 areas, frontal, hippocampus, and cerebellum. However, there were some slight differences in the numbers for these two patients. These differences can be exemplified by looking at the cultural differences in the individual patient. One patient had played in a band when he was younger, so the therapy took a more active and upbeat route while the second patient enjoyed singing folk songs, so the therapy took a more relaxing route. Each of these patients took a different route to therapy based on culture. In this way a neuroanthropological perspective of taking into consideration each of the patient’s cultural backgrounds assisted in making improvements in brain activity.
I thought this paper took into account both neurological research and anthropological methods very well. However, I would have liked to see a little more of the neuroimaging results explained. Overall, I think that the integration of neuroimaging techniques and the anthropological view of integration of culture into therapy is very important for the advancement of both music therapy and neuroanthropology. I believe that this paper shows a bright future for neuroanthropology by showcasing how neuroanthropology can be put into practice into field outside of pure research to have an impact, and possibly improve, the quality of care in therapy just by having a neuroanthropological viewpoint.
My questions for the class are:
1. What other areas of therapy could you see having a benefit from using a neuroanthropological perspective and approach?
2. Do you think it is appropriate for neuroanthropology to be used in therapy? Why or why not?