Healing through music


Institutional Communication Service

19 September 2022

For seven consecutive Mondays from October through December, prominent figures from the world of science and professors from USI's School of Biomedical Sciences will discuss seven topics that link music to medicine and people's well-being. This is what "Healing through music" offers, the second stage of the Culture and Health course promoted by the USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences in collaboration with the City of Lugano Cultural Division and the IBSA Foundation for Scientific Research, which this year features the collaboration of the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana.

The seven thematic lectures, open to the public, will take place from Monday 17 October to Monday 5 December, in the Multipurpose Hall of the East Campus in Lugano from 6 to 7:00 p.m. They will involve students and PhD students from the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, those from the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society and from the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana – University of Music, as well as members of the public who wish to attend. Each lecture will include an introductory key-note speech - which this year will be attended by an international guest speaker, who will be given the task of presenting the theme of the lecture based on their experience and expertise. This introduction will be followed by the testimony of another expert in the field on the subject (testimonial) who will speak about their experience "in the field." This will be followed by a discussion in which one or more USI professors will be involved as discussants.


Course Structure

The idea of the course stems from the need to provide both students and USI PhD students and interested audiences and musicians in university training at the University of Music, a scientific perspective in the use of music in medical practice and in the context of social cohesion.

Music is part of human nature. Every human culture we know has used and uses music in its various forms, which suggests that throughout history people have always enjoyed music.

The existence of prehistoric music is evidenced by the discovery of flutes and other musical instruments played by Neanderthals at least 50,000 years ago. The healing power of sound has been known since ancient times and is often found in mythology.

Today we know that music can be considered an effective tool for treatment, at all ages of life and in many clinical areas. Of all the arts, music boasts the most extensive body of scientific evidence: there is growing interest in many medical, psychological and social fields.

Important clinical studies increasingly show that sound and music stimulate and regulate emotions, cognitive functions, communication and behaviour by fostering connections and between the hemispheres of the brain and brain plasticity.

Listening to music frequently can help reduce stress, counter chronic pain, and recover motor and neurological functions that have been damaged by stroke or traumatic events. In the case of children with autism or attention deficit and speech difficulties, music is a resource for learning and developing relationships. Instead, for elderly people with early forms of dementia, sound and music stimulate cognitive functions on which they exert an important action in addition to reducing psycho-behavioural disorders.

There is also a large body of literature on the potential role of music in strengthening social ties by managing at the same time to break down cultural or religious barriers.

In light of the above, the course aims to provide interpretive keys to the role exerted by music in the spheres of individual and social well-being, seen from a multidisciplinary perspective, as well as to stimulate the use of music in Ticino for therapeutic purposes. The Course will also provide an accurate review of experiences and good practices in the scientific and medical field at an international level, combined with the views of a number of key players in the scientific world at USI.

During each lesson there will be musical interludes performed by students of the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana.
The lessons will be held in Italian and English with simultaneous translation in both languages and will be recorded and published online at the end of the course.

To stay up-to-date on the Culture and Health project, please fill in the dedicated form.


Attending all meetings:

  • Students of the USI Master of Medicine will be granted 1 ECTS (elective course) following the submission of a final report, based on specific topics specified in the course outline (on iCourses);
  • PhD students in the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences will be able to obtain 0.5 ECTS;
  • Students in the Bachelor's and Master's programmes of the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana will be able to obtain 1 ECTS;


Full course programme

17 October - State of the art of music in medicine
Speaker: Suzanne B. Hanser, professor of music therapy, Berklee College of Music Boston (USA)
Discussion with: Davide Robbiani, IRB director and USI professor, and Giuliano Bellorini, musician and musicologist, USI lecturer and Conservatorio "G. Verdi" Milano (I)

24 October - Music medicine to counter pain, anxiety and stress
Speaker: Enzo Grossi, medical doctor, lecturer and researcher
Testimonial: Alfredo Raglio, music therapist and researcher, Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri IRCCS Pavia (I)
Discussion with: Claudia Gamondi, USI free lecturer, Chief Clinic of Palliative and Supportive Care EOC

7 November - Music education and psycho-cognitive development
Speaker: Luisa Lopez, doctor and neurophysiopathologist at the Villa Immacolata Care Home and Fondazione Mariani Milano.
Testimonial: Dawn Rose, senior researcher, Hochschule Luzern
Discussion with: Giacomo Simonetti, USI professor, head of pediatrics Istituto pediatrico della Svizzera italiana
14 November - Music therapy in child neuropsychiatric and psychiatric
Speaker: Christian Gold, professor, NORCE Bergen (NOR)
Testimonial: Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells, CBPU researcher, ICREA Barcelona (ES)
Discussion withAndrea Raballo, USI professor, MD Psychiatrist

21 November - Music as life companion for wellbeing throughout the lifespan
Speaker: Dr Liila Taruffi, researcher, Durham University (UK)
Testimonial: Paolo Paolantonio, musician and researcher, Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana
Discussion with: Cristiana Sessa, USI professor, head of gynaecological cancer unit

28 November - Music therapy for dementia and neurological rehabilitation
Speaker: Alfredo Raglio, music therapist and researcher, Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri IRCCS Pavia (I)
Testimonial: Daniele Molteni, freelancer, an expert in music therapy
Discussion with: Luca Gabutti, USI professor, chief and head of internal medicine department EOC

5 December - Music and social cohesion
Speaker: Steven Mithen, archaeologist The University of Reading, UK
Testimonial: Deborah Parker, musician and music therapist, Associazione Prima Materia Montespertoli (I)
Discussion with: Peter Schulz, USI professor, Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society





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