Music as a Regulator of Emotion: Three Case Studies

Happy to share my first academic publication from the July issue of Music & Medicine! Article includes my work from UC San Diego on musical intensity and self-harming behaviors as well as 3 case studies illustrating how music can be used in life-preserving ways. Conducting this research was one of the most challenging and meaningful endeavors of my life, and I’m honored to see these individuals’ powerful stories shared.

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Music and dementia: individual differences in response to personalized playlists

Abstract courtesy of Neuromusic News, Fondazione Mariani

Music and dementia: individual differences in response to personalized playlists
Journal of Alzheimers Disease 2018 Jun 23

Garrido S, Stevens CJ, Chang E, Dunne L, Perz J
MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour & Development, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia

Personalized music playlists are increasingly being used in health-care contexts to address the psychological and behavioral symptoms in people with dementia. However, there is little understanding of how people with different mental health histories and symptoms respond differently to music. A factorial experiment was conducted to investigate the influence of depression, anxiety, apathy, and cognitive decline on affective response to music. Ninety-nine people with dementia listened to three music playlists based on personal preferences. Activation of facial action units and behavioral observation were measured continuously. Results demonstrated that people with high levels of depression and with symptoms of Alzheimer’s type dementia demonstrated increased levels of sadness when listening to music. People with low depression but high levels of apathy demonstrated the highest behavioral evidence of pleasure during music listening, although behavioral evidence declined with severity of cognitive decline. It is concluded that as well as accounting for personal preferences, music interventions for people with dementia need to take mental health history and symptoms into account.

And for our Italian friends:

Una playlist di musica personalizzata è un metodo sempre più utilizzato nei contesti di cura per risolvere problemi di natura psicologica o comportamentale in persone con demenza. Tuttavia, non è chiaro come persone con differenti storie di malattia mentale rispondano in modo diverso alla musica. È stato condotto un esperimento fattoriale per investigare il ruolo della depressione, dell’ansia, dell’apatia e del declino cognitivo nella risposta emotiva alla musica. 99 soggetti affetti da demenza sono stati esposti all’ascolto di tre diverse playlist musicali basate sulle preferenze personali. L’attivazione di unità di azione facciale e l’osservazione comportamentale sono state misurate di continuo. I risultati evidenziano che le persone con alti livelli di depressione e con segni tipici della demenza di Alzheimer mostravano un incremento dei segni di tristezza quando ascoltavano la musica. Le persone con basso punteggio di depressione, ma con alto livello di apatia mostravano la più significativa evidenza di piacere durante l’ascolto della musica, sebbene gli indici comportamentali declinassero con l’aumento del declino cognitivo. Gli Autori concludono che, oltre a considerare le preferenze personali, gli interventi musicali per i pazienti affetti da Alzheimer debbano tenere in considerazione anche la loro storia clinica e i sintomi.

Full article access

DOI: 10.3233/JAD-180084
Journal: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 64, no. 3, pp. 933-941, 2018

‘Beautiful but sad’ music can help people feel better

psychology-sad-music-enhances-mood-300x214Listening to sad music in adverse situations: How music selection strategies relate to self-regulatory goals, listening effects, and mood enhancement

Annemieke J.M. Van den Tol, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Keynes E-105, Canterbury, CT2 7NP, UK. Email:


Adults’ (N = 220) reported motivations for listening to sad music after experiencing adverse negative circumstances were examined by exploring how their music selection strategies related to (a) their self-regulatory goals, and (b) reported effects of listening. The effects of music selection strategies, self-regulatory goals, and reported effects on the achievement of mood enhancement were also explored using a retrospective survey design. The findings indicate that music choice is linked to the individual’s identified self-regulatory goals for music listening and to expected effects. Additionally, the results show that if individuals had intended to achieve mood enhancement through music listening, this was often achieved by first experiencing cognitive reappraisal or distraction. The selection of music with perceived high aesthetic value was the only music selection strategy that directly predicted mood enhancement. Where respondents indicated that they chose music with the intention of triggering memories, this was negatively related to the self-regulatory goal of mood enhancement.

Source:, Psychology of Music (SAGE)




Hosted by Extra’s Maria Menounos and Actor Michael Chiklis


LOS ANGELES, CA, October 20, 2013 – Grammy® Award-winning music legend Dave Grohl

will headline Autism Speaks’ Third Annual BLUE JEAN BALL, presented by The GUESS?

Foundation, on Thursday, October 24, 2013, at Boulevard 3 in Hollywood.

Dave Grohl is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter for the Foo Fighters, a band he

founded after being the drummer for the American grunge band Nirvana. Grohl is an eleven-

time Grammy® winner, and was Grammy®-nominated a total of 25 times. He has also taken

home an American Music Award and two MTV Music Video Awards.


Also performing will be rock artist Rick Springfield, who won a Grammy® for his No. 1 hit

“Jessie’s Girl” in 1981 and received an additional three Grammy® nominations. Oscar® and

Grammy®-winning artist Ryan Bingham will be performing as well. He recently wrote and

recorded “Until I’m One With You,” the theme-song for FX’s drama-series, The Bridge. Bingham

performed and co-wrote Crazy Heart’s (2009) award-winning theme song “The Weary Kid,”

earning him an Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice Award, with the American

Music Association naming him “Artist of the Year.”


Also taking the stage will be American Idol finalist James Durbin, who is recognized for placing

in the top four of Season 10, while openly sharing his challenges of living with Aspergers

and Tourettes. In addition, The White Buffalo with singer/songwriter Jake Smith (Shadows,

Greys and Evil Ways) will perform. World-renowned DJ Splyce will be providing entertainment

throughout the evening.


The Third Annual BLUE JEAN BALL is honoring Chuck Saftler, President of Program Strategy

and Chief Operating Officer of FX Networks, and Autism Speaks Board of Directors’ Member.

Saftler will receive the tribute for his dedication to autism awareness. Hosting the event will be

television personality Maria Menounos (Extra) and Emmy® Award-winning Actor Michael Chiklis

(The Shield, Vegas, The Commish).


The Autism Speaks BLUE JEAN BALL is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for

innovative autism research and resources for individuals and families affected by the

disorder. Tickets, sponsorship opportunities and additional information are available at


“One in 88 children is currently diagnosed with autism, and the annual cost for families living

with the disorder is an average of $60,000,” stated Matt Asner, Executive Director of Southern

California for Autism Speaks. “Now, more than ever, we need to raise awareness and assure

that research, advocacy and family service initiatives continue to be funded. What better way to

make a little noise than with a rock and roll concert?”


Past participants and honorees have included Sarah McLachlan, Toni Braxton, Paul Marciano,

photographer Rob Shanahan, Sinbad, Brooke White, Raphael Saadiq, Sarah Shahi, Beth

Reisgraph, Nikki Reed and Paul MacDonald, among others.


Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism

spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders

are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as

well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78

percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.


About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding

research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism

spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism

Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with

autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC

and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research

and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are

held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established

partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and

awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit .


Established in 1981, GUESS began as a jeans company and has since successfully grown into a global

lifestyle brand. Today, GUESS designs, markets and distributes full collections of women’s, men’s

and children’s apparel as well as accessories. Throughout the years, the GUESS image has been

portrayed in unforgettable, innovative campaigns that have made the brand a household name. GUESS

is distributed throughout the United States and Canada in fine department stores, its retail specialty and

factory stores, and domestically on its online stores. GUESS has licensees and distributors in South

America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. In addition to shopping online, you can find more information

on GUESS at