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Music and the ageing brain: can personalised music provision support communication skills and quality of life?


College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

Edinburgh United Kingdom Health Psychology Music Neurology Neuroscience Other

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh is a new £20m interdisciplinary research collaboration aiming to transform later life with person centred integrated care

The vision of the ACRC is to play a vital role in addressing the Grand Challenge of ageing by transformational research that will support the functional ability of people in later life so they can contribute to their own welfare for longer. With fresh and diverse thinking across interdisciplinary perspectives our academy students will work to creatively embed deep understanding, data science, artificial intelligence, assistive technologies and robotics into systems of health and social care supporting the independence, dignity and quality-of-life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments.

The ACRC Academy will equip future leaders to drive society’s response to the challenges of later life care provision; a problem which is growing in scale, complexity and urgency. Our alumni will become leaders in across a diverse range of pioneering and influential roles in the public, private and third sectors.

The Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) at the University of Edinburgh is seeking a prospective doctoral student for a funded PhD project on Music and the Ageing Brain, supervised by Dr Tom Russ (Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre, University of Edinburgh) and Dr Katie Overy (School of Music, ECA, University of Edinburgh).

Music can be used in powerful ways to facilitate joy, communication, and affirmation of life, both during healthy ageing and when living with illness or disease. Music is increasingly understood as a positive intervention for individuals living in a variety of care and clinical settings, as a way to improve mood, communication and cognitive skills. However, research findings are limited in scope, and not always translated into practice. The aim of this project is to explore the potential of music as an arts intervention with older adults in care settings. The student will explore different ways of providing personalised, meaningful musical experiences in different care settings and will assess impact on communication skills, quality of life, and staff well-being.

We warmly encourage applications from researchers from diverse backgrounds including music, psychology, or psychiatry. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a strong PhD student to explore their own research interests in this area within the interdisciplinary, cross-college ACRC Academy. The PhD training programme will begin in September 2021 and the PhD research will begin in September 2022.

The objectives of this PhD project are to:

  • Clarify how, if, and when music is currently used with older adults in care settings and explore existing barriers to such music provision
  • Critically review the multi-disciplinary literature on music as a non-pharmacological intervention in age-related conditions such as stroke, dementia and Parkinson’s disease
  • Explore at least two complementary models of personalised music provision in care settings (SCO ReConnect and Playlist for Life) including an exploration of meaningful outcomes with key stakeholders, and
  • Provide resulting guidelines for different care settings, in consultation with key stakeholders.

There will be a strong emphasis on public engagement and dissemination of findings in various forms.

Playlist for Life has been tested in small-scale evaluations in five NHS Health Boards and has had significant success for individuals. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s SCO ReConnect workshops take place in hospitals and other care settings with the aim of using “live music to improve patients’ sense of well-being and quality of life, to help improve the sense of well-being in all staff working within the ward, and to encourage the general use of music in the care setting”.


Funding Notes

PhD's are fully funded with an above industry stipend for the full 4 year period.

The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals will be strictly limited to 3 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.

Application forms are now available here:
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Find more information on how to apply on the How to Apply section of our website:
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