Today and for the next few days, I have the opportunity to attend and participate in the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA)’s annual conference held in Snowmass Village, Colorado. Day one – complete. And WOW! so much information that I learned.
So many times, we don’t think of the arts as professions and/or workplaces. We treat them as hobbies. Did you know that according to a recent student by Dr. Bronwen Ackermann in Australia as part of the Sound Practice Project, 84% of musicians surveyed reported pain or injury that interfered with their performance? If these people were working in a factory, it would be shut down because of hazardous conditions.
Today, we also learned about the stress disease connection from Dr. Gabor Mate. He is the author of a number of books including “When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection.” He emphasized that we need to look at people as parts of their environments and as not just a body, but a body and a mind. Health is very much related to our social and emotional lives. So often in Western medicine, we have forgotten this fact and tend to treat symptoms in a silo rather than in a holistic approach. Dr. Mate described how we develop our personality as children as a defense mechanism for the situations and environments in which we live. He provided relevant case studies and also described anger. Anger is a powerful emotion; however, we can have healthy anger that is more or less a boundary defense that is in the moment and very specific or we can have unhealthy anger that is based on past experiences. One thing is clear that self-expression through the arts is needed; and furthermore, self-expression must translate through all parts of a person’s life.
Today, we also heard from the Dancer Wellness Project (www.dancerwellnessproject.com). This is a very interesting collaboration of organizations using technology to build profiles for and of dancers to help promote dancer health and wellness.
The afternoon was spent discussing neuroscience and neurorehabilitation using music from Dr. Gottfried Schlaug. He showcased through neuroimaging how making music changes brains and their structure. For artists/musicians, a combination of both mental and physical practice is much more effective than just physical practice alone. He described motor imagery and the benefits of using such techniques including: facilitating learning, preventing injury, making practice opportunity any time, and making practice possible even after one has sustained an injury. He also provided an overview of melodic intonation therapy and auditory-motor mapping training. All of these types of interventions that Dr. Schlaug discussed have rehabilitation usages that can improve lives for people who have had strokes, children with autism, and many others. He closed by saying that therapeutic effects seem to last when changes are made in the brain.
This day was packed full of information. I’m excited for tomorrow’s lectures, and now preparing for our panel presentation on Saturday about our recent trip to Cuba to work with health in the arts. Good to see part of the Cuba Crew 2011: Dave Hinkamp, Mary Burns, Charlie Barrett, and Marc Brodsky!