The effect of music on the mind and body is well-studied and rich with therapeutic advantages. A new program at UCLA is aiming to research the benefits of music specifically in a high-stress environment while promoting the well-being of students on campus in the process.
Mindful Music hosts live music performances during lunchtimes in high-traffic areas within the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Students often get stressed out, burned out and unable to get out of a bad mood," observes Dalida Arakelian, program founder and executive director. "Music creates an instantaneous change in mind state. It stimulates the entire brain."
Promoting health and scientific research
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA actively seeks ways to improve the emotional and mental health of its students. This program is part of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, and spurs a new area of research with respect to the health benefits of music.
Ample research has been done on the effects of music in general, according to Arakelian, but not as much on live music in particular. After each 30-minute performance, attendees are asked to complete a short survey about their stress levels before and after listening.
"The program livens up the monotony of the usual weekday lunch," says Sean Dreyer, third-year medical student and research director of the program. "We hope to produce more results that give insight into which populations — faculty, students, age groups – and which genres are most effective at reducing stress."
The program started in the fall of 2014 as a pilot and is now a full-fledged research initiative sponsored by the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
Giving musicians an outlet
Mindful Music puts out a general call for talent throughout the school. Performers aren't limited to the School of Music; anyone who plays an instrument is welcome to participate. This allows medical students, who may not have a venue to showcase a side talent, to enjoy their own music for mutual reward among their peers and faculty.
"Mindful Music unleashes creativity," Arakelian says. "It gives musicians a chance to share their talent that's too often hidden away."
For music students, the program offers similar opportunities. Nashir Janmohamed, a UCLA music student who has performed during one of the lunchtime concerts, plays upright bass — usually as part of a jazz trio.
"It's been great getting to share my love of live performances with a new demographic," he reflects. "It's so nice to have people I normally wouldn't interact with take a second and listen to what we do."
Arakelian hopes to further her research in an effort to improve the environment for UCLA students, physicians, patients and staff. "The team of leaders and supporters at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior — and student ambassadors of this program — want UCLA and the David Geffen School of Medicine to be a place that provides a healthy, collaborative learning environment," she says. "Music provides an extra dose of care to students who are dealing with extreme amounts of stress."
Students can look for live pop-up music performances at the Center for Health Sciences, Cafe Med, Courtyard and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in February and continuing throughout the year. Dalida Arakelian can provide more information via email.
By Patricia Chaney