The synergy of music and science is an interesting topic to know more about. It’s been a good few years that DesiYUP connected with clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Shantala Hegde from India. She is a clinical and public health intermediate fellow of the India Alliance DBT Wellcome Trust and faculty at NIMHANS Bengaluru, India. She is also a trained musician who is pursuing a career in neuromusicology and is a visiting associate professor of psychology at Harvard. 

Dr. Shantala is currently in the USA also as a visiting scientist, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, at Harvard Medical School. In the past few years Dr. Shantala has researched – evidenced based approach- on a variety of topics related to music: music therapy, music-interventions, and music as medicine.

Since my high school days, I was always interested in studying human behaviour, biopsychology, music and spirituality. Psychology became my favourite subject and I continued my formal education in this subject. 

I am a student of Indian classical vocal music and since my high school days, I was always interested in studying human behaviour, biopsychology, music and spirituality. Psychology became my favourite subject and I continued my formal education in this subject. My passion for music helped me to find my path in the scientific field. I was keen in doing evidence based research on music and the effect of music on the brain.  My approach to music neuroscience research is to look at music as a tool to study the brain, music based interventions based on the principles of neurorehabilitation.” 

Dr. Shantala’s approach is to examine how melodic structures and rhythmic patterns can be used in studying neurocognitive processes; to conduct her research she uses Indian classical music. When we asked her what here favorite Raga is to relax or to deal with situations where stress is involved she says: 

“As an ardent lover of music, student of Indian music, there are more than one ragas that are my favorites. But when I am too stressed, personally I listen to instrumental music more than that with lyrics. I often listen to bansuri, santoor, sarangi, sitar performances by artists like Pandit Hariparasad Chaurasia, Pandit Rakesh Chaurasia, Pandit Shivakumar Sharma, Pandit Nikil Bannerjee, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Ustaad Sultan Khan and Pandit Ram Narayan.”

Raga Chikitsa 

Music is a universal phenomenon. It is a universal language. Many features of music are common across various cultures. But the unique characteristics of Indian music is raga and tala structures. One of the ancient hindu manuscripts Raga chikitsa, which has its references in Ayurvedic texts as well, deals with the therapeutic effects of the ragas. The ancient Indian classical music maestros affirmed that ragas influence emotions of human being by changing the resonance of the human body. 

As a true scientist Dr Shantala states firmly that ragas do not cure a given ailment. “That would be unscientific to say that there is such a direct correlation between raga and its beneficial effect on a given medical condition. In my research experience I can say that it is important for a scientist or clinician researcher to not only just focus on the raga overall, but look into which instrument, which phase of raga elaboration, the tempo of the composition or excerpt as all these factors play a role its impact on the listener.” 

Dr Shantala

Dr Shantala’s lab looked into the emotion perception and benefits of listening to music on neurocognitive functions in patients with schizophrenia. She is working on patients with Parkinson’s disease and patients with head injury. 

Music therapy by definition- should be carried out in a clinical setting, it should be carried out by a trained music therapist. It’s important to understand that music therapy affects the human mind at multiple levels and that these therapeutic sessions should have specific functional goals. Since it engages a host of brain networks. Both engaging actively or passively with music has immense benefits in keeping our brain functions fit. It is like the best ‘brain gym’”explains Dr Shantala. “Furthermore, listening to music live, attending music concerts can have therapeutic benefits. It is like saying ‘have an overall good diet’ and have a good lifestyle. Listening to any self chosen music can have an impact on mood, emotion regulation, neurocognitive functions and thereby quality of life.” 

Video: 

In 2020 we organized the concert Yoga Nidra in which we hosted a laying down concert.

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