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Music and Parkinson's

Parkinson's is a neurological condition which impacts the brain, with symptoms becoming worse over time. There is no cure. Over 150,000 people in the UK are living with Parkinson's, which is 'the fastest growing neurological condition in the world' (Parkinson's UK).

Summary of research

Over the last 5 years this international team of researchers has explored the use of music for people with Parkinson's: Dr Michelle Phillips, Prof Dawn Rose (University of Applied Arts and Sciences, Lucerne), Dr Ellen Poliakoff (University of Manchester), and Dr Will Young (University of Exeter). The team are part of the Greater Manchester Live Well and Dance for Parkinson's network, and the team's research has been featured as part of the Science Museum's 'Turn it up: The power of music' exhibition (currently in London), and shared in a public concert with students, people with Parkinson's, and the general public, at the RNCM in summer 2022 (featured on ITV Granada News).


A survey conducted by this research team with over 300 people with Parkinson's suggested multiple new ways in which music was relevant and impactful for people with Parkinson's (up to then, music had been shown to be useful in enabling PwP to walk and move, as music with a strong beat can stimulate the part of the brain responsible for initiating movement, which becomes damaged as the condition progresses). For example, results suggest that music may be useful for emotion and mood management, for motivation, and as a personal anthem. Findings also suggested that there may be scope for musical imagery (people imagining music in their head) to be useful for PwP, and that there are training and interventions that could make use of this finding. All of these results suggest a much broader role for music and social prescribing in treatments for Parkinson's. Two more datasets are currently being analysed and prepared for publication: one which examines the music and genres of music PwP report listening to, and another which extracts core features of commonly-mentioned music, to look for underlying musical characteristics which may be relevant across pieces of music.


Michelle is also working on two other research projects on music and Parkinson's with these and other researchers. One of these is an evaluation of existing music and movement workshops and classes which already take place across Greater Manchester, to look at PwP's experiences of the music used in these sessions, and the impact of such activities. The second is a project which shares research to date on music and Parkinson's with composers, and invites them to compose new music for PwP, for specific uses (e.g., music for motivation, music for relaxation).


Music has far greater potential than has currently been tapped into, to serve as a useful tool for people living with Parkinson's, whether as a way to manage the emotional load of living with a degenerative condition, to alleviate tremors or help with movement, or to motivate and stimulate in daily life.


Rose, D. C., Poliakoff, E., Young, W. R., & Phillips, M. (2023). Music Moves Me in More Ways Than One: An Online Survey Investigating the Everyday Use of Music among People with Parkinson's. Music & Science, 6, 20592043231197792.


Poliakoff, E., Bek, J., Phillips, M., Young, W. R., & Rose, D. C. (2023). Vividness and Use of Imagery Related to Music and Movement in People with Parkinson's: A Mixed-methods Survey Study. Music & Science, 6, 20592043231197919.


Rose, D. C., Poliakoff, E., Hadley, R., Guérin, S. M., Phillips, M., & Young, W. R. (2022). Levelling the Playing Field: The Role of Workshops to Explore How People With Parkinson's Use Music for Mood and Movement Management as Part of a Patient and Public Involvement Strategy. Frontiers in Rehabilitation Sciences, 3, 873216.

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