Research Underway

The purpose of this section is to serve notice of current Canadian research so that those wishing more information, or to collaborate, or to avoid duplicating on-going work can find out what is underway and not yet published.

Contact us with information on your current research for posting in this section.

Baycrest has embarked on an innovative study in partnership with the Royal Conservatory. With generous funding from the Trillium Foundation, this collaborative initiative will be exploring the impact of involvement in the professional arts for groups of older adults.

Using a mixed-method design, this study will gather both qualitative and quantitative data to help us understand how the professional arts affects health and wellbeing including particular domains of cognition and social engagement.

For more information and to view a video about this project visit the website.

Or contact:
Melissa Tafler, Coordinator and Clinical Educator, Arts in Health Program, Baycrest
Dr. Ann Patteson, Director of Research, The Royal Conservatory

Mental illness stigma is a significant barrier to quality of life in people with bipolar disorder, and has been identified as a priority by government and non-governmental organizations in Canada and abroad. Both use of the creative arts and direct-contact based approaches have been demonstrated as effective methods for reducing stigma. As part of a ‘Knowledge to Action’ study funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) researchers at the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto supported the  development, dissemination, and evaluation of a theatrical performance - ‘That’s Just Crazy Talk’ -  by an established playwright and actress Victoria Maxwell (who lives with BD) to illustrate how self-stigma and social stigma manifest, and how to recognize and respond to these forms of stigma. That’s Just Crazy Talk is a thoughtful and funny one-woman play that looks at both the light and dark side of living with bipolar disorder, anxiety and psychosis. Based on Victoria’s lived experiences of bipolar disorder, it describes one woman’s journey of coming to terms with mental illness, within herself and in her family. The researchers also aimed to evaluate the impacts of a ‘lived experience’ theatrical performance on attitudes and understandings of mental health issues. Two target audiences were recruited for this study: people living with bipolar disorder and healthcare providers. Overall 84 healthcare providers, 80 people with BD and 3 individuals who identified as both, and more then 350 general audience members attended the performance over the course of three, live performances in Vancouver and Toronto in 2011.
This project is one component of a 2-year Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Knowledge-to-Action project awarded to CREST.BD researchers in 2009 led by co-lead investigators Drs. Erin Michalak (University of British Columbia) and Sagar Parikh (University of Toronto), with a special role for “Decision-Maker” Victoria Maxwell and co-investigators Jehannine Austin, Rachelle Hole, Mark Lau, Jamie Livingston, Roumen Milev, Barbara Pesut, Melinda Suto, Greg Murray, Sheri Johnson and Steve Hinshaw. Partners include the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT), the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry and the University of British Columbia Department of Psychiatry. Learn more about all three components of this translational research study.
For more information about this research project visit:

Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), in collaboration with Mark Morris Group’s Dance for PD®, Sarah Robichaud, Founder & Creative Director of Dancing with Parkinson’s™, and researchers from York and Ryerson Universities, is hosting a 12-week dance program to study the physical and neuropsychological effects of dance on people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The program, known as Dancing with Parkinson’s at Canada’s National Ballet School (DwP@NBS) is taking place at NBS’ state-of-the-art facilities in Toronto, Ontario. It will study how dance is able to seemingly bypass the neurodegeneration occurring in the PD brain and facilitate improvement in movement for those with PD.

Led by York University Centre for Vision Research’s Professor Dr. Joseph DeSouza as well as Ryerson University graduate student and NBS alumna Rachel Bar, DwP@NBS will see twenty PD participants take part in a weekly dance class co-taught by NBS Artistic Faculty and Sarah Robichaud, both trained in the Dance for PD® method.

Volunteers electing to participate in the study will undergo a series of brain imaging scans to help researchers understand how dance affects changes in brain network activity and structure. While being scanned, participants will be asked to listen to music they have danced to during their classes and visualize themselves dancing. Preliminary data gathered by examining professional ballet dancers and non-clinical populations has already shown that after learning a dance, changes in brain activity are detected in primary auditory cortex and supplementary motor cortex, when visualizing a dance while listening to its music. Partial funding for the start-up and research comes from a generous donation from the Irpinia Club of Toronto and Parkinson’s Society Canada.

Watch a recording from the first-ever Parkinson's Multi-City Livestream Event on Tuesday March 3 2015, to hear more about the DwP@NBS program.

Contact: Principal Investigator Dr. Joseph DeSouza of York University -

For more information visit:

The Health Arts Research Centre (HARC) is intended as part of an integrated response to an identified need for a knowledge centre dedicated to renewing health in Northern BC through creative, geographically, and socio-culturally specific means and as an agent for building capacity to bring that knowledge into practice, especially in the North, and especially for First Nations.  Purpose: Four primary principles guide the vision, relationships and work of HARC:  1. Respectful and reciprocal relationships with multiple and diverse communities, 2. Thinking creatively about health disparities in the North, 3. Merging artistic ways of knowing and being with health and medical paradigms, 4. Producing new spaces for innovative and creative knowledge about well-being.  This is a research centre that also provides project opportunities to bring northern Indigenous peoples/knowledge/communities into dialogue with undergraduate medical and other health-focused students in order to build.  Participants: HARC provides opportunities to bring northern Indigenous peoples/knowledge/communities into dialogue with undergraduate medical and other health-focused students.  Outcomes: Improved health for Northern and specifically Northern Indigenous peoples and communities in British Columbia.

Framework/Philosophy: We are a group of learners, researchers and collaborators from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and experience, who are interested in synergistic and creative ways to interrogate the determinants of health disparities in the north, and to engage in strengths-based visioning and action to address the revival of health, healing and well-being in northern communities.

Partners: National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH); Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR)
Time: October 2012 – ongoing
Location: Prince George
Art Modalities: We are open to all arts-based research methods and projects - but have committed to having an "expert" in the genre before we employ the genre.

University of Northern British Columbia & University of British Columbia
Faculty of Medicine
Principal Investigator: Sarah de Leeuw
Email | Web:  | Phone: 1-250-960-5438

Image Source: 


The Buddy’s Glee Club studies started in 2010 seeking to understand the benefits for older adults, both cognitively intact and/or diagnosed with dementia, from participating in a choir.  In each of three phases, participants took part in a weekly one hour choral program for 16 weeks. 

Phase One involved older adults attending a community Day Program.  Five large themes emerged including: friendship and companionship; simplicity; happiness, uplifting and positive feelings; relaxing and reduced anxiety; and fun. Participants indicated the choir was an overall positive and enjoyable experience which facilitated making friends, and singing familiar songs in a group with others.

Phase Two focused on residents diagnosed with some type of cognitive disorder and focused on changes in pain, mood, anxiety, and energy from the beginning of each session to the end, and also overall change from the beginning of the choral sessions to end.

The average scores of all participant responses showed that for each of the 16 sessions, happiness and mood increased from pre to post-test. Energy increased for 14 sessions, pain decreased for 14 sessions, and anxiety decreased for 11 out of 16 sessions.  Qualitative data saw the emergence of nine major themes: community building/making friends; special moments; climate of positivity; music is therapy; singing makes me feel well/keeps me going; no anxiety at glee; increased mood, energy and alertness; I can do it; and, I love to sing.

Phase Three is currently underway and will be wrapping up in December 2013.  The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of participating in a choir facilitated by a music therapist on the pain, mood, and energy of older adults and their caregivers (spouse, friend, relative, etc.).  This study focuses on older adults who are cognitively intact and/or diagnosed with dementia.

Research Questions
1) What if any are the changes in pain, mood, and energy from the beginning to the end of each session for the significant others/companions and residents singing in the choir?
2) Can singing in a choir facilitate the acquisition of therapeutic goals including: reducing pain, improving mood and energy, increasing social interaction, and improving quality of life?
3) What specific aspects of the choir do the residents and significant others find beneficial?
4) What are the perceived effects of the choir on residents as described by caregivers/significant others of the residents?

The purpose of the proposed project is to examine the effects of choral singing with residents of Baycrest Apotex Centre diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, or Cognitive Impairment, and their caregivers.  This study, “Buddy’s Glee Club 3” aims to expand the research by focusing on the effects of singing in a choir with residents diagnosed with cognitive disorders, and to also examine the perceived effects of the choir on integrating care givers of the Apotex’s participants.

This study will contain three different subject groups. The first subject group involves residents diagnosed with cognitive impairment and will focus on changes in pain, mood, social interactions, and energy from the beginning of each session to the end, and will also focus on overall change from the beginning of the choir sessions to the end of the choir sessions. The second subject group contains significant others’ (S.O.’s)/ caregivers of the residents, including spouses, children, relatives, or private caregivers. The S.O’s/ caregivers will also be examined to observe changes in pain, mood, and energy, and also their perceived benefits of the choir for themselves and their loved one/ friend. The third group consists of Baycrest staff, volunteers and/or students who are involved in each week’s session.

For more information on the Buddy's Glee Club studies, visit or contact researcher Amy Clements-Cortes at