The Sound Health Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Renée Fleming.
Our mission is to promote research and public awareness about the impact of music on health and wellness. Visit our website here.
SHN Monthly Newsletter
November 2021
Music & the Developing Infant Brain

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett: A 60 Minutes Special

Tony Bennett is an American icon—and living with Alzheimer's, the 95-year-old singer prepared for one last performance at Radio City Hall in August, alongside Lady Gaga. Anderson Cooper from 60 Minutes was there to document the days leading up to the final show. It's readily apparent how Bennett comes alive as he sings.

"I think he really pushed through something to give the world the gift of knowing that things can change," Lady Gaga said after the performance, pointing to her head, "and you can still be magnificent."

You can watch the segment below.
In Conversation
Featuring The Lullaby Project at Carnegie Hall
Lullabies have been sung to babies for as long as we've tracked human history—the earliest written evidence for lullabies dates back 5,000 years to ancient Babylon. That universality is part of what inspired the creation of the Lullaby Project at Carnegie Hall 10 years ago.

“No matter what your cultural background is, no matter what language you speak, there's something that's very resonant about a lullaby,” says Tiffany Ortiz, Director of Early Childhood Programs at Carnegie Hall. “And that allows us to work with so many different people in so many different communities and cultural contexts.”
Photo by Jennifer Taylor. Courtesy of Carnegie Hall.
The Lullaby Project was born when staff at a local public hospital asked Carnegie Hall how music could support the wellbeing of the teen mothers with whom they were working. Investing in the wellbeing of children in their early years is critical, and health equity is the goal. “We're really prioritizing communities most impacted by social inequality and injustice,” Tiffany says. “So, we're working in the context of public health, we're working in the context of the correctional complex, we're working within homeless shelters.”

Photo by Jennifer Taylor, courtesy of Carnegie Hall
Why lullabies? Research has shown that lullabies help infants relax. Lullabies may help lower pain and anxiety for sedated patients under age 2. Not to mention that generations of parents can attest to the soporific effects of just the right song on a cranky child. But lullabies can also have a soothing effect on the singers themselves.

SHN Communications Director Indre Viskontas featured the Lullaby Project in an episode of her podcast, Cadence, and says that lullabies could be part of the healing process for caregivers. “Choosing to care for a baby is not easy—there’s often trauma and loss involved,” she says. “Even if everything is fine, parents might be losing the potential of a carefree future. There could be physical or psychological pain.” Indre cites research that shows lullabies induce measurable physiological responses in mothers who sing them, indicating lowered stress and calmer minds.
Two women with dark hair smile engagingly at a baby who is seated on the table in front of them, gazing in rapt attention. The woman on the left has her hands up and mouth open as if in song.
What started as a small pilot project in 2011, working with a few mothers, has now expanded to several community sites across New York, where the Lullaby Project enrolls 300 families annually, “from public health care settings, to homeless shelters, to correctional facilities, high schools and other community-based centers,” says Tiffany.

Photo by Fadi Kheir, courtesy of Carnegie Hall

The project is a free offering that parents or caregivers sign up for through Carnegie Hall’s community partners. Next, they’re paired with professional teaching artists who walk them through a series of writing prompts (one such guide is available as a PDF here). After they write the lyrics together, music is composed with guidance from the parents, and at the end of the writing process, families walk away with a recording of their songs. Some families are invited to professionally record their songs, and others are invited to perform their songs live in concert.
Parents come away from the project with much more than a song. One of the parents interviewed on Cadence knows that the song she wrote for her son, Jazz, will have lasting impact: “It’s something that not only can influence Jazz in positive ways, but can actually be generational, you know, he can pass it on to his kids.”

“There's something really unique about the power that it has in supporting families and supporting our young ones,” says Tiffany. “One of our colleagues called the songs these ‘portable sanctuaries.’ If families move or go, they can carry that song with them. And that's something that's really powerful and comforting.”

Carnegie Hall received support from the National Endowment for the Arts for the Lullaby Project in 2015 and 2016, in the form of grant to support the project’s growth, and via a NEA Research Grant to help evaluate the initiative’s significant impact. Since then, additional Lullaby Projects have emerged by arts organizations that Carnegie Hall has coached on starting similar efforts in their own communities large and small. In addition to dozens of Lullaby Projects that have been created in North and South America over the years, other project partners are based Europe, Australia, and beyond. More recently, Carnegie Hall started a partnership with West Chester University (WCU) on a NEA Research Lab (awarded to WCU in 2021), where researchers plan to conduct an experimental study to examine how participating in the Lullaby project may foster positive self-regulation outcomes for program participants.

The Lullaby Project welcomes inquiries from interested partners. They work with organizations around the world, from a refugee camp in Greece to the region of Onkaparinga in Southern Australia. Contact for more information.
Research Spotlight: Music and the Developing Infant Brain

As the authors point out, music is present at social events where emotional bonding and shared goals are important: religious ceremonies, military events, weddings. Studies have suggested that adults who engage in activities requiring motor synchrony show more prosocial behavior, but the social implications of musical behavior during infancy has not been extensively studied. This experimental study compared two groups of infants: The group that had been bounced synchronously with the experimenter showed more prosocial behavior than the group that had not.

Lense, Ladanyi, Rabinowitch, Trainor, and Gordon, 2021, Rhythm and timing as vulnerabilities in neurodevelopmental disorders
Many neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are associated with difficulties with rhythm, timing, and synchrony. This paper considers how disrupted rhythm and timing skills early in life may contribute to atypical developmental cascades, with consideration of the developmental context as well as the unique aspects of different NDDs.

This randomized controlled trial examined the effects of a mother's presence on their preterm infants when exposed to recorded lullaby music. The study found that there was no observable infant response to music, possibly because they might not have been able to discern the music against the ambient soundscape. Infants experienced significantly higher oxygen saturation during the mothers' presence.

More recent applications of music-based interventions for hospitalized newborn infants are expanding their scope to include an understanding of not only the physiological stability of the infant as an objective, but also the attachment, trauma, and neurological needs of the infant and parents. This paper outlines neurological considerations for infant auditory processing in order to frame a premise for music-based interventions.

This study on a psycho-educational program for new mothers on maternal voice, timing of interplay, and recognition of infant cues found that participation in the program enhanced the mothers' ability to understand, soothe and play with their infants.

Cirelli and Trehub, 2020, Familiar Songs reduce infant distress
It's common, when a child is distressed, for a caregiver to vocalize to them—especially when holding them is not immediately possible. This study compared the responses of distressed infants to adult speech, unfamiliar songs, and familiar songs. It found that while speech resulted in a negative effect in all age groups, songs had a positive effect, with familiar songs producing the greatest favorable consequences.
Related Conferences and Events

Session 4: October 29, 2021

April 7 - 9, 2022

Deadline for symposia: December 15, 2021
Deadline for posters: January 11, 2022
April 23 - 26, 2022
Job Opportunities

Assistant Professor, Tenure-Track, Interaction Design, Music and Sound, New York University

Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Reading

MRC Doctoral Training Partnership PhD studentship: investigating hearing health in musicians, University of Manchester

Postdoctoral Positions, LIVELab, McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind

Graduate Trainee Opening, MAPLE (Music, Acoustics, Perception and LEarning) lab at McMaster University

Postdoctoral Positions, Dynamic Brain Lab, Northwestern University

Doctoral students, The Perception Lab, Dept. of Psychology, Northeastern University

PhD students, Language, Attention, Music, and Audition (LAMA) lab, University of Toronto - Mississauga. Candidates interested in studying the development of auditory processing should email Dr. Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden at

PhD Studentship, MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University

Research Assistant, Cognitive and Sensory Imaging (CASI) Laboratory at the Institute for Human Neuroscience at Boys Town National Research Hospital

Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Irvine

Lecturer in Psychology, University of York
Funding Opportunities

Did you miss our webinar on applying for NIH and NEA grants? You can find the slides and webinar presentation with Q&A here.

NEA Creative Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants will fund arts engagement programming for military and veteran populations and family members, providing opportunities for creative expression and strengthening resilience.

NEA Research Labs funds transdisciplinary research teams grounded in the social and behavioral sciences, yielding empirical insights about the arts for the benefit of arts and non-arts sectors alike.

Over the next five years, Creative Forces®: National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Military Healing Arts Network intends to provide $2.5 million in new research funding.

NEA Research Grants in the Arts funds research studies that investigate the value and/or impact of the arts, either as individual components of the U.S. arts ecology or as they interact with each other and/or with other domains of American life.

This funding opportunity is intended to: (1) increase our understanding of how music affects the brain when it is used therapeutically and/or (2) use that knowledge to better develop evidence-based music interventions to enhance health or treat specific diseases and disorders.

This funding opportunity is intended to: (1) increase our understanding of how music affects the brain when it is used therapeutically and/or (2) use that knowledge to better develop evidence-based music interventions to enhance health or treat specific diseases and disorders.

The purpose of this FOA is to promote innovative research on music and health with an emphasis on developing music interventions aimed at understanding their mechanisms of action and clinical applications for the treatment of many diseases, disorders, and conditions.