Catalyst Awardee

Project Description

Designing music-based interventions for aging-related pain: Sonifying body movement using interactive mobile technology to improve physical and psychological outcomes

Elizabeth Murnane, PhD | Dartmouth College, School of Engineering
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Award year: 2021

Music is potent medicine, positively contributing to human development, disease treatment, and overall well-being throughout the lifespan. Exploring how music-based interventions can transform how we promote healthy aging, this proposal focuses on managing pain, which increases with age and is linked with numerous aspects of functioning, mental health, and quality of life. Given the experience of pain is both physical and psycho-emotional, we propose an integrative new paradigm: leveraging music’s physiological, psychological, and neurological effects by developing interventions that combine self-expressive, music-making activities with movement-based therapies that aid pain recovery and management. We see interactive, sensor-embedded personal phones and wearables as a major opportunity to deliver and monitor the impacts of these interventions in an adaptive, personalized, and broadly scalable manner. We are particularly keen to explore musical interfaces that sonify body movement; for example, hand and finger exercises for osteoarthritis could be delivered through a virtual piano displayed on a smartphone screen, while a low-back pain patient’s reaching exercises could be sonified by mapping Fitbit gyroscope data to musical frequencies, notes, and chords. Our research will pursue the participatory design and proof-of-concept evaluation of such interactive musical interventions. Focusing on establishing feasibility, generating design guidelines, and informing technical implementation, we will examine people’s engagement with and the early efficacy of this style of intervention, in terms of short-term physical improvements (e.g., in pain intensity, impairment, proprioception) and psychological benefits (e.g., in anxiety, fear, mood, self-efficacy) as well as user experience metrics that foreshadow longer-term adoption and adherence.

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