Music Therapy in Virtual Environments

Delivering telehealth therapy sessions to people with quadriplegia via a virtual reality platform

This project is developing a proof-of-concept online virtual reality platform designed to deliver telehealth group singing interventions for people with quadriplegia to improve respiratory function, voice, mood, and social connectedness.

Quadriplegia is the reduction or loss of function in the arms, trunk, legs and pelvic organs as a result of cervical spinal cord injury. Respiratory dysfunction is a major cause of illness and death following quadriplegia. Previous clinical research has demonstrated that group singing can help people with quadriplegia to breathe better, speak louder and to make social connections.

Many of the motivational and emotional benefits come from singing with others rather than in isolation. Disproportionately high numbers of people with quadriplegia live in rural and remote areas; areas often poorly served by traditional health services however, telehealth is becoming an accessible and cost-effective means to treat patients in their homes.

Currently thousands of Australians with quadriplegia are significantly disadvantaged in terms of accessing the group music-making that able- bodied people take for granted. Successful demonstration of this proof-of-concept in this particularly vulnerable group will provide future scope to benefit other groups who are unable to access face-to-face music participation due to physical or geographical constraints.

The main technical issue that this project is addressing is latency – the delay between when someone starts singing and when the person hears it at the other end of a videoconference. This latency is due to the time it takes for the signal to travel from one computer to the other over the internet and causes difficulties in allowing for synchronous point-to-point live music performance.

This project will attempt to deal with the latency effect by utilising hardware and software solutions that enable real-time uncompressed audio over the internet and incorporating this into a virtual reality experience.

New advancements in virtual reality technology will be incorporated into the environment to enhance the depth of the group's participation experience. The project will design and test a virtual environment (such as singing around a campfire) that will enrich both the group's experience and the participant's motivation to sing.

Research Team

Funding

Seed Funding 2015

International interview within virtual reality could be a world first, Phil Williams interviews Dr Jeanette Tamplin on BBC Radio 5 Live, 16 January 2017.

Neurorehabilitation: Occupational, music & physiotherapists work together, interview with Dr Jeanette Tamplin on The Morning Show, Seven Network, 1 December 2016.

Interview with Dr Jeanette Tamplin on Parallel Lines, RRR Radio, 23 November 2016.

Virtual reality and music therapy are helping quadriplegics to breathe easy by Emma Brancatisano, Huffington Post Australia, 16 November 2016.

Presented at the Networked Society Symposium 2016 as part of the Digital Bandaids: How technology is good for your health session, 11 November 2016.

Spinal patients sing to breathe easy in a virtual world by Andrew Trounsen, Pursuit, 9 November 2016.

Music Therapy in Virtual Environment by Yunhan Li, Yunhan Li, 14 September 2016.

Tapping into the connections between music and the brain by Lynne Malcolm, All in the Mind, ABC RN, 1 April 2016.

Spinal cord injury sufferers live in hope of a medical miracle that could see them walk again by Lucie van den Berg, Herald Sun, 28 June 2014.

Explainer: What is music therapy? by Jeanette Tamplin, The Conversation, 9 December 2013.

How art and music therapy help people recover from tragedy and trauma, by Kate Legge, The Australian, 12 October 2013.

Austin hospital music therapist uses song to help quadriplegics, by Adrian Bernecich, Heidelberg Leader, 10 August 2013.