The Georgetown Lombardi’s Arts & Humanities Program Received National Endowment for the Arts Grant

Karen Ashbrook playing hammered dulcimer for patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
Karen Ashbrook, a certified music practitioner through the Music for Healing and Transitions Program, plays hammered dulcimer for patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital as part of the Arts and Humanities Program.

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In February, 2021, the Georgetown Lombardi Arts & Humanities Program, directed by Julia Langley, was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study the effect of music on ICU patients’ neurologic and physiologic responses.

Over the course of about six months, the study team plans to recruit from MedStar Georgetown University Hospital 30 adult male and female ICU patients. In the ICU, patients will listen to three recorded guitar music sets performed and arranged specifically for this study by a professional musician. Researchers will take several physiologic measures, and document blood pressure and vital signs before and during the music presentations in the morning, afternoon, and evening over one to two days. In addition, participants will complete a questionnaire at baseline and before discharge. According to Dr. Jagmeet Kanwal, principal investigator and associate professor in the department of neurology, though seemingly imperceptible to us when we listen to soft music, “the subtle stimulation of pressure receptors under the skin may energize the brain’s autonomic system.” In turn, hormonal balance as well as respiratory and heart rates may shift. These physiologic changes could initiate recovery and healing.

“We’ve seen patients who are unconscious, or in a light sleep, start to move their bodies in response to hearing music,” says Langley. “At the same time, we know that music can be extremely calming, and help sleep-deprived ICU patients get the rest their bodies need.”

Read the news at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center website.