BRAMS – CRBLM Lecture Series: Keynote Lecture by Dr. Frank Russo
SingWell Canada: Understanding group singing in older adults from a biopsychosocial perspective
Abstract: Many older adults face formidable challenges to social wellbeing. Foremost among these is the social isolation and loneliness that may arise from a combination of factors inclusive of retirement from work, increased physical distance from family, and the death of loved ones. Another prominent challenge to social wellbeing concerns stigma, often involving self-stereotyping whereby an individual internalizes commonly held negative characterizations of aging or aging-associated diseases as part of their social identity. SingWell Canada (https://www.singwell.ca) is a SSHRC-funded partnership development grant that aims to investigate the potential for choir singing to support social wellbeing in older adults living with age-associated diseases (Parkinson’s, Lung Disease, Dementia, Aphasia, Hearing Loss) as well as those who are in good health. We are currently tracking 15 newly formed choirs across Canada. A second aim of this project is to clarify the sociobiological underpinnings of any benefits to social wellbeing. Our results at the year-1 mark of this program of research suggest that group singing leads to increased social connectedness and reduced stigma. Pre-post session effects typically show increases in oxytocin and pain thresholds, and decreases in cortisol. Comparisons with control conditions suggest that some of these pre-post effects are driven by singing alone, while others arise as a function of group dynamics.
Short bio: Frank Russo is a Professor of Psychology at Ryerson University, where he holds the Hear the World Research Chair in Music and Emotional Speech. He also holds status appointments in Rehabilitation Science and Music at the University of Toronto, and as an affiliate scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. In his Science of Music Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) Lab at Ryerson, he studies the biological, cognitive, and social-emotional bases of music and speech. He also engages in two related areas of applied research. The first area seeks to understand perception of listening effort, music, and speech emotion in hearing-impaired older adults. The second area assesses the potential for music-based interventions (especially singing) to contribute to health, communication and wellbeing. He is committed to the dissemination and translation of research beyond the academy through creative collaborations with community-based groups and industry. Successful translations of his research include a Canadian train-horn standard, a sensory substitution technology, new algorithms to support music perception through hearing aids, and the development of singing interventions to support communication deficits. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Psychological Association and Massey College, and is a past president of the Canadian Acoustical Association.