Award for life-changing music therapy tool

School of Humanities and Social Science academic Rebecca Atkinson has won a national award for groundbreaking research behind a new digital music therapy portal called DUET.

DUET’s life-improving potential has been recognised with a 2022 UK Advancing Healthcare Award for Dr Atkinson, shared with her colleagues Irene Lo Coco and Elizabeth Nightingale at Chiltern Music Therapy.

DUET is the first digital platform to give people struggling with illness and depression access to music therapy from their homes, potentially opening a new treatment avenue for millions of people worldwide. It allows users consistent and flexible access to music therapy resources in between sessions, pushing back against isolation as well as enhancing therapeutic outcomes.

DUET builds on research carried out by Dr Atkinson and a team at Chiltern Music Therapy – whose research Rebecca supports – into the power of music therapy to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease and other forms of brain injury or neurodegeneration, as well as people in acute care or in community rehabilitation.

Under an Arts Council scholarship, Dr Atkinson is also carrying out world-first research into the use of music therapy to help children with a form of childhood dementia called Batten disease. Children with the condition lose key physical functions, and at present often die in their teens. Music therapy approaches being trialled by Dr Atkinson are, however, showing promise in helping maintain children maintain things like speech.

Dr Rebecca Atkinson,said: “Since the pandemic, the digital divide has meant that many people who normally benefit from music therapy have been closed off and isolated from much-needed services.

This platform will allow many more people to access music therapy services in remote ways. Together with my research at the University of Brighton, developments like DUET really showcase ways people with dementia can access music therapy.“

Award judges, , described DUET as a “truly ground-breaking and innovative project which utilised service user involvement from start to finish”.

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