Ep. 86: The latest research on music interventions in dementia, and two ways to get personally involved; with NIA’s Dr. Coryse St. Hillaire-Clarke

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

March 16, 2021

The award-winning movie Alive Inside (2014) inspired a five-year research project that is documenting the effects of a personalized music intervention for those with dementia. Dr. Coryse St. Hillaire-Clarke of The National Institute on Aging (NIA) explains the project, which is funded by an NIA grant. We discuss other studies and developments in music interventions for dementia, including two exciting opportunities to be personally involved in policies and research on the topic. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research, which falls within the NIA’s broader scientific effort to extend the healthy, active years of life.

Dr. Coryse St. Hillaire-Clarke


My guest today is with the National Institute on Aging (NIA).  NIA is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health; and leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. NIA is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer’s disease research. Dr. Coryse St. Hillaire-Clarke is Program Director of the NIA’s Division of Neuroscience. In this capacity, she represents the institute on a number of working groups including the Music and Health working group. Dr. St. Hillaire-Clarke received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University.


  • The research project inspired by the movie Alive Inside is called METRIcAL, conducted by Dr. Vincent Mor in collaboration with Brown University.
  • METRIcAL is a 5-year program involving over 60 nursing homes.
  • We discuss other music-dementia research projects and trends.
  • Sound Health formed in 2016 as a collaboration between the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Institute of Health (NIH), and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
  • An outgrowth of the Sound Health initiative, the Sound Health Network (SHN) was launched in January 2021 in collaboration with soprano Renée Fleming, artistic advisor of the Kennedy Center. SHN is a multidisciplinary program promoting research and public awareness about music’s good agency in health and wellness.
  • SHN is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts with the University of California, San Francisco in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Renée Fleming.

In-Episode Promo

If you’re a regular listener of this show, you’ve probably heard me talk about my Rolflex Pro. It played a significant role in healing my repetitive use injuries; and I have continued to use it every day for years, both to prevent injuries – and because it feels so good! The Rolflex Pro is a foam roller tool with clam-shaped arms that provide leverage to adjust the pressure to whatever you like or can tolerate. I use it mainly on my arms and neck/shoulder area; but it can be used on any body part because of how it’s designed. I highly recommend it. As I mentioned, I’ve been using the Rolflex daily for years, and recently signed up as an affiliate; so you can help support the show – at no extra cost to you – by purchasing through this link. The Rolflex is eligible for reimbursement from Flexible Spending Accounts and HSAs; it’s also eligible for medical insurance reimbursement in certain situations. More information is on the Rolflex website. (Visit Ep. 80 show notes for a photo of my Rolflex Pro in my workout area in my basement.)


Connect/Other Resources

  • Alive Inside trailer
  • Article: Brown to study music program for nursing home residents with dementia
  • METRIcAL study, with Dr. Vincent Mor
  • Two ways to get personally involved:
    1. Visit the Sound Health website for more info on applying for a grant on the therapeutic use of music
    2. Register for and attend the March 31 event:
      • Collaboration between NIH/Foundation for NIH/Renee Fleming Foundation
      • The first in a series of virtual meetings to develop evidence-based music therapies for brain disorders of aging; the goal is to help develop standards and tools that can eventually be applied to ALL music-based interventions across the life span.
      • Click here for more information and to register for this free event to be held on March 31
  • If you enjoyed this episode, you will also enjoy:
    • Ep. 14 with Samite Mulando, expert featured on Alive Inside
    • Ep. 16 with Dr. Connie Tomaino, expert featured on Alive Inside; co-founder (with Dr. Oliver Sacks) of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function
    • Ep. 39 Parkinson’s Disease Interventions with Music; “Music provides structure for movement.” Marion Haase, M.M.
    • Ep. 4 Music interventions for stroke and traumatic brain injuries, with Maegan Morrow (Gabby Giffords’ music therapist)

 Closing Words

That was great information on some exciting research that is going on now AND on a couple ways we can get involved in policies and research on this topic. One way to get involved and have your voice heard is to attend the online NIH & Music meeting on March 31st. It’s on a Wednesday and begins at noon CT. This is a free event but you do need to register. I’m registered and hope to see you there! And If you have an innovative idea related to the therapeutic use of music, check out the grant Coryse mentioned. If you have a story of music enhancing the life of someone with dementia, I’d love to hear it! You can connect with me on email, social media, or my website. Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.

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