Neuroscientist and folk musician Pamela Reinagel returns to the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room on Thursday (Feb. 23) to explore how the effects of singing might provide mental and physical health benefits for the body and brain. Her lecture is titled “The Neuroscience of Singing.”
Her theory about singing was first inspired by research showing that slow, deep breathing stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which may be the key to how yoga and meditation promote calming states. She also learned that the Vagus Nerve is involved in how calm or distressed emotions are expressed in our voices—and how this can alter the hearer’s emotional state.
“It’s exciting,” Reinagel says, “because if we are right about the neurophysiological benefits of singing, this could lead to singing-based therapies to help people with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ASD.”
Reinagel’s theory will be published in EMC Imprint, a peer-reviewed digital publication, early this year. Meanwhile she is planning more experiments to test the theory. “We still need to get regulatory approval and raise funds before we can put physiology monitors on ballad singers, but we already have some very promising preliminary data.”
Reinagel lives in San Diego with her two children. She received her doctorate in biology at Harvard University and has conducted neuroscience research at the California Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School, and the University of California-San Diego. Since 2003 she has been a professor of neurobiology at UCSD, where she has given workshops on the neural mechanisms of empathy.
As an avocational singer and historian of unaccompanied folk ballads, she has participated and performed at festivals, concerts, and retreats in Ireland, England, and throughout the United States. Reinagel has released three folk music CDs and received favorable reviews.
This is the first time she has combined her two passions of science and music.
Written by Marcia Reinagel, Academy Village Volunteer