Landmark Research Initiative Takes Aim at Alzheimer's

3/15/2011 [Corporate]

Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute, the MIT Media Laboratory and the National Network of Digital Schools

MEADVILLE, PA. — The Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute (YMWI) and the MIT Media Laboratory have begun a landmark collaboration to place powerful music-driven interventions in the hands of at-risk elderly. Together, Media Lab professor Tod Machover, YMWI CEO Barry Bittman, MD and post-doctoral appointee, Adam Boulanger, aim to create music composition tools that prevent or reduce the progression of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's Disease.

Music has long presented an exciting, yet elusive opportunity for Alzheimer's Disease intervention. Oft-cited anecdotal evidence abounds suggesting that the ability to create and participate in music persists into the latest stages of the disease. However, music is a complex, multi-faceted, cultural phenomenon that is difficult to decompose to the point that it is suitable for study as a clinical intervention. This research initiative will generate music technology to target neural regions of interest during the evolution of Alzheimer's Disease, culminating in a community of composers, proactively managing their cognitive health as part of rich music tasks.

"The strategic exploration of creative music expression as a means for preserving cognitive function has widespread potential healthcare ramifications," noted Barry Bittman, MD. "The prospect of facilitating and disseminating this innovative interdisciplinary music program through the National Network of Digital Schools and its vast cyber network affords an unprecedented opportunity not only to improve quality of life for seniors with mild cognitive impairment, but also to enrich and nurture young people immersed in a process that promotes a needed sense of bi-directional caring and compassion."

The collaboration between the YMWI and MIT Media Laboratory integrates the long-standing research themes of its key members, Tod Machover, Barry Bittman, and Adam Boulanger. Prof. Machover, through the creation of the Hyperscore composition tool, has enabled access to music composition for a myriad of novice musicians. His work has been celebrated throughout the world as the leading example that anyone can compose original and interesting music, given the right tool. Dr. Bittman's research demonstrates the impact of music on the genomic level, with key publications in major peer-reviewed medical journals. Boulanger's doctoral studies focused on embedding an Alzheimer's Disease assessment directly into music tasks. His work has shown that music technology can support scientifically valid clinical interventions.

"This exciting collaboration with the YMWI presents a unique opportunity to take research and technology developed at the MIT Media Lab and test it at a significant scale," says Prof. Tod Machover. "We hope to demonstrate the power and efficacy of these creative music activities, reaching a very wide audience over the coming years."

The research conducted under this initiative is made possible by the generous support of the YMWI and the National Network of Digital Schools.

For more information, write Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road, Meadville, PA 16335, telephone (814) 333-5061, or e-mail bbittman@mmchs.org

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