Music, the Brain and Therapeutic Results


Concetta Tomaino

It’s a New Year and time for the first episode of The Listening Program® Radio for 2015! And, I’m elated to share that Dr. Concetta M. Tomaino will be my guest tomorrow, Wednesday, January 7th from 8:00-9:00 PM Eastern to discuss Music, the Brain and Therapeutic Results.

Dr. Tomaino is executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function and is internationally known for her research in the clinical applications of music and neurologic rehabilitation including decades of clinical work with the acclaimed neurologist and best-selling author Dr. Oliver Sacks. The recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Music Therapy Association, Concetta is one of the pioneers in the field of music therapy.

If you share my fascination with the profound ways music can improve the human condition I invite you to join us for this free call. You can register here and receive a program reminder before the show. 

More about the program

What does contemporary neuroscience tell us about music and the brain? How do these findings support clinical applications of music therapy in child development as well as recovery or maintenance of function in adults with brain injuries?  Drawing from research and her extensive clinical work, many chronicled by Dr. Oliver Sacks, Dr. Tomaino provides an overview of music and the brain and shares evidence for the efficacy of clinical applications of music in stroke rehabilitation, enhanced function in Parkinson’s disease and improved memory and quality of life in those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Join Alex Doman and his guest Concetta Tomaino for insights into music and the brain. This program will help you understand:

  • How is music used in therapy?
  • What is music therapy?
  • What are some of the clinical applications of music to help those with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke? Children with developmental delays?
  • How is the field of neuroscience helping inform the field of music therapy?


Which brain areas are involved in music listening?

One of the more common questions we field about The Listening Program® (TLP) is “which brain areas are involved in music listening? I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore this a bit with you here at The Brain Understanding Itself.

The brain is musical; neuroscience has proven through functional brain imaging that when we listen to music, virtually the whole brain is involved.

Music listening not only involves the auditory areas of the brain, but also engages large-scale neural networks including; prefrontal cortex, motor cortex, sensory cortex, auditory cortex, visual cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, corpus callosum, autonomic nervous system, vestibular system, and the enteric nervous system.

TLP helps conduct the neural symphony, connecting the most ancient parts of the brain to the most advanced.

If you are not already familiar with TLP it is an easy, pleasurable and effective method to improve your brain health and performance.  Here’s a great video with clients and professionals who have made  listening a daily practice to help with brain injury recovery, autism, reading, learning, attention, peak performance, wellness and more.

Areas of brain focus The Listening Program is designed to challenge and advance: 

Executive Function
Executive function is an umbrella term for a set of high-level mental processes that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel asks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations.

Examples: attention, memory, behavior, organization, time management, self control

Communication is your ability to exchange information, thoughts, and opinions through verbal and written expression including speech, language, voice and writing; as well as non verbal expression such as gesture, facial expressions, and body language.

Examples: verbal comprehension, oral & written communication, voice quality, reading comprehension, understood by others, understanding body language

Auditory Processing
Auditory processing is your ability to understand and make sense of what you hear. Difficulty processing auditory information can have a negative impact on learning, thinking, communication and relationships.

Examples: listening, following verbal directions, focusing with background noise, comfort with sound, understanding tone of voice, sound discrimination

Social & Emotional
Your ability to relate to others, manage emotions, resolve conflicts, understand and respond to social situations is impacted by your social skills and emotional intelligence.

Examples: self-confidence, compassion, social interactions, interpersonal relationships, mood regulation, conflict resolution

Stress Response
Your body and brain is hard-wired to react to stress to protect you against threats, whether real or imagined. But, if your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. That’s because your body’s “fight-or-flight reaction” — its natural alarm system — is constantly on.

Examples: stress reduction, relaxation, less overwhelmed, lower tension, better sleep, reduce nervous habits

Motor Coordination
Motor coordination is the harmonious functioning of body parts that involve movement including: gross motor skills such as walking, skipping, running and throwing; fine motor movement such as handwriting, buttoning a shirt, and keyboarding; and motor planning, the ability of the brain to conceive, organize and carry out purposeful movements.

Examples: balance, body awareness, coordination, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, activity level

Creative Expression
Your ability to express yourself creatively involves original & open thinking, imagination, problem solving, and movement to create something new and/or respond to opportunities.

Examples: musicality, opening thinking, visual arts, creative writing, innovation, problem solving

Based on sound science, The Listening Program® music trains the brain to improve how you perceive, process and respond to the flood of sensory information in our environment today. This leads to personal growth helping you to live a happier, productive, and more fulfilling life.

To learn more please free to visit or give us a call at +1.801.622.5676

ISQRMM Music and Medicine Conference Presentation


I just received confirmation that the Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Research in Music and Medicine (ISQRMM) has accepted our abstract entitled “Cross-Cultural Sound and Music: A Novel Rhythmic Approach for Improving Brain Function” to be presented as a workshop session during the 2013 conference to be held on July 26-27, 2013, at the University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music in Athens, Georgia!  I’ll be presenting along with my colleagues, occupational therapist Sheila Allen, and master ethnic percussionist and composer Nacho Arimany.

If you follow or are involved with our work at Advanced Brain Technologies you really won’t want to miss this conference. In addition to our presentation (see abstract below) more than 20 music effects researchers will be presenting from around the world.

Cross- Cultural Music and Sound: A Novel Rhythmic Approach for Improving Brain Function 

The integration of acoustic elements: frequency, amplitude, time and spatiality, form the basis for how sound affects us.  Since ancient times, sound has been used with great purpose to affect man.  More recently, in the last seventy years, ongoing technological and scientific advances have enabled the development of sound-based programs for applications ranging from brain injury rehabilitation to wellness, and peak mental performance.

Beginning with its release of The Listening Program® in 1999, Advanced Brain Technologies, a leader in applied psychoacoustics and music cognition, has been combining artistry, musicianship, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration with technological innovations to record and produce music-based methods specifically created to improve and support brain function in children and adults.

The next generation of sound/music for brain fitness begins at the 2013 ISQRMM Conference. This presentation will unveil the newest development in The Listening Program, comprised entirely of original music which highlights and connects acoustic elements through a distinctive integration of rhythmic cross-cultural sounds.

This dynamic session will include the worldwide debut of this originally composed music through live and recorded performance, and audience participation. The history, rationale, and applications of this ground-breaking program will be presented by its creators.

Join us! Athens is a great college town, registration is only $75, and the conference hotel rates are very reasonable. Online registration is now open and may be accessed at

Also, be sure to stay on for The Listening Program® provider training course hosted at the University the day after the conference on Sunday the 29th. Registration information is available here.





A Week of Sound, Music and the Brain

Several months back a good friend Vera Brandes who is the head of music medicine research at Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg sent me a link to an event happening at the university in our home town of Ogden, Utah. The event- The Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Research in Music and Medicine Inaugural Music  & Medicine Symposium.  I had heard nothing of the young organization or the event about to take place in my own backyard. I was embarrassed a friend in Austria had to bring it to my attention. It was hard to believe such an important event was being held in our field of music effects research, in Ogden, and we knew nothing of it!  

So…Once I got the news I contacted the organizer Dr. David Akombo, co-founder of the organization and Assistant Professor of Music at Weber State University. We arranged a meeting, and quickly found many synergies. In short order ABT became the main sponsor and David and I went to work to expand the one day symposium to a full week of events with a partnership between Advanced Brain Technologies, Weber State University and The Interdisciplinary Society for Quantitative Research in Music and Medicine.

A Week of Sound, Music and the Brain is Five Powerful Events in ONE!

June 2-6, 2011 some of the world leaders in music medicine research will gather in Ogden, Utah along with students, musicians, educators, healthcare providers, and others interested in music and the brain.

Event highlights:

June 2- Healing at the Speed of Sound™ Workshop. A Day with Don Campbell and myself, ABT Provider Forum, and ABT Open House.

June 3- ISQRMM Inaugural Music & Medicine Symposium. Keynote address by Mark Jude Tramo of  The Institute for Music & Brain Science, research papers presented by investigators from across the world, live music performances, and a workshop I will lead on music listening therapy.

June 4-6- TLP Provider Certification Course for healthcare, education and music professionals to certify to offer The Listening Program® and other ABT solutions to their clients and students.

This is going to be a life changing week for those who attend.

I hope you will join us and help spread the word! Please visit the event website to register online and learn more.

Girls with Rett Syndrome Benefit from The Listening Program

Rett syndrome is a unique developmental disorder first recognized in infancy and is generally seen in girls. It is often misdiagnosed as autism, cerebral palsy, or a developmental delay. Caused by mutations in the X chromosome it occurs in 1 of every 10,000-23,000 female births. Rett syndrome causes problems in the brain affecting; learning, communication, sensory processing, movement, breathing, cardiac function, chewing, swallowing, digestion, and more.

The host of challenges that come with a Rett syndrome diagnosis affect the family as a whole, with most individuals requiring assistance in most every aspect of their life. The needs vary through the four stages of Rett syndrome from Early Onset, Rapid Destructive, Plateau, and on to Late Motor Deterioration.

A British research study showed that 5 girls with Rett Syndrome benefitted from listening to a music listening method developed by my company Advanced Brain Technologies called The Listening Program®. The findings show improvements in a number of areas with the strongest trend toward increased engagement and decreased anxiety. Sensory processing appears to be improving which is consistent with outcomes of other studies.  These findings were presented by the investigator Helen Francis at the International Rett Syndrome Congress in Paris back in October 2008.

We are encouraged by these results and the potential to improve the quality of life for those with Rett syndrome. A larger controlled trial should be conducted, and I am hopeful this study will help make that happen.

Review the research poster and learn more about Rett syndrome at the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

Sound and Music Alliance

I am attending the first Sound and Music Alliance (SAMA) symposium in Litchfield, CT this weekend as an invited panelist. This is an exciting new organization advancing the intentional use and transformative power of sound and music.

SAMA, a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit membership organization is an interdisciplinary alliance of therapists, clinicians, educators, musicians, researchers, sound and music practitioners, indigenous teachers, program developers, and product manufacturers.

Learn more about SAMA

Music Shown to Improve Communication in Toddlers with Cochlear Implants

A new study reveals that music activities can improve communication in toddlers who have received cochlear implants.

Some infants who are born with impaired hearing and who cannot benefit from hearing aids are likely to gain 90% normal hearing ability by undergoing a cochlear implantation procedure. Following the operation, however, the child — who never heard before — undergoes a long rehabilitation process before he or she can begin to speak.

In the present study, Dr. Dikla Kerem of the University of Haifa examined the particular effects that music therapy has on the potential development of toddlers (aged 2-3 years) who have undergone cochlear implantation, specifically in terms of improving spontaneous communication.

“Music comprises various elements that are also components of language and therefore as a non-verbal form of communication is suitable for communication with these children, when they are still unable to use language. Communicative interactions, especially those initiated by the toddlers, are critical in the development of normal communication, as they are prerequisites for developing and acquiring language,” explains Dr. Kerem. She adds that the toddlers undergoing rehabilitation are under much pressure from their surroundings — especially the parents — to begin talking, and sometimes this pressure makes them become introverted. As such, music therapy lends itself to strengthening these children’s nonverbal communication and thereby lessens the pressure on them for verbal exchange and response.[1]

Music can serve to open up the auditory receptivity of these children, lowering their defenses and providing an opportunity to gradually process and understand the components of sound that make up receptive and expressive language.  It is a way into a fragile system in need of gentle stimulation and support.

Read the full article.

[1] University of Haifa (2010, January 7). Music therapy can assist toddlers’ communication rehabilitation process. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 7, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/01/100106093636.htm