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.

Dance is usually viewed as a beautiful, aesthetic practice – not a therapeutic, rehabilitative exercise. Dancing/Parkinson’s: The Calgary Project, is an exciting program that combines the expertise of the University of Calgary Division of Dance with neuroscientist and adjunct assistant professor in Dance, Dr. Afra Foroud and community partners Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and Parkinson Alberta, in a unique research program that could provide a valuable new therapeutic approach to helping those with Parkinson’s disease.

The Dancing/Parkinson’s research study, which is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) the Rozsa Foundation, and Parkinson Alberta, is an innovative program which uses weekly dance classes as a therapeutic tool for Parkinson’s patients to improve practical motor skills while providing an avenue for social communication and emotional expression. “With Parkinson’s disease, the ability to move, to express emotions and ideas is diminished or even lost.  In this way, the many aspects of what makes each of us unique and independent can become extremely challenging,” says Dr. Foroud. “In dance, we are not only moving, we are sensing, feeling, expressing, thinking and creating all at once. Dance is the expressive integration of the many aspects of what makes us who we are.”

The multi-disciplinary dance study will examine both the quantitative and qualitative effects of dancing, integrating a series of tasks usually applied in clinical and research settings. The University of Calgary Dance Division, lead by Professor Anne Flynn who teaches with the faculties of Arts and Kinesiology, and community partners Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, led by Founder in Residence, Vicki Adams Willis, were tasked with designing a dance program that would engage participants by stimulating the motor and cognitive areas of the brain, while allowing for expression and building social relationships. The 40 Dance/Parkinson’s participants began dancing on October 29, 2013, and will continue with weekly classes until April 2014, after which they will undergo further testing to evaluate motor skills against a control group of dancers who do not have Parkinson’s disease.  The research program builds on a successful pilot project held in winter of last year.

Flynn is a Co-investigator on a $2.5 million dollar national partnership grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada on Arts for Social Change, which is studying the design and evaluation of arts-based programs that focus on capacity building in communities. Dancing/Parkinson’s is one of the case studies in this national five-year project. ( The Dancing/Parkinson’s program uses an “Arts for Social Change” model meaning that participants and researchers all contribute in an atmosphere of co-learning that captures a diversity of experience.  Besides contributing to the growing body of knowledge about the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s, the project also hopes to offer insights into how the arts can be used effectively as tools for creating individual and community well-being.

Program Contact: Anne Flynn, Professor, Dance, Unviersity of Calgary

For more information visit: - view the poster - listen to the CBC radio podcast 


AIRS - Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing is a major collaborative research initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  This seven-year major collaborative research initiative (2009-2016)  aims to Advance Interdisciplinary Research in Singing through cooperation of over 70 researchers representing every province in Canada and 15 other countries on 6 continents.  Aiming to understand individual, cultural, and universal influences on singing and the influences of singing on individuals and societies, the AIRS researchers will focus on three themes:

  • Development of singing ability
  • Singing and learning - how to teach singing and how to use singing to teach
  • Enhancement of health and well-being through singing

Theme 3: Enhancing Health and Well-being Through Singing is being explore in three domains:

  • Cultural Understanding through Singing: Examining the role of teaching songs of foreign cultures to children to promote lifelong cultural understanding of others and themselves. This entails acquiring information about the songs of various cultures.
  • Intergenerational Singing: Determining how singing increases individual physical and psychological well-being and community well-being, with a special focus on intergenerational singing where elder members of a society teach children songs of their culture.
  • Singing and Health: Specific health benefits of singing as in breathing exercise compliance in lung disease through singing

For more information visit: -  Contact AIRS Project Director: Annabel Cohen, University of PEI;  Theme 3.3 Leader Dr. Laurel Young, Concordia University 

Music and movement share an intimate relationship in the human experience. We are naturally inclined to move our bodies while listening to music, by toe-tapping or head-bobbing, and even dance. A connection between music and movement is suggested in the brain, as the areas responsible for perceiving music and producing movement overlap. Our movement to music is influenced by familiarity, enjoyment, and ‘groove’ (how much the music makes one want to move). Our movement is also guided by the salience, or clearness, of the beat, especially when we are synchronizing our movements in time with the music.

Researchers at the Music and Neuroscience lab at Western University are currently investigating how these musical factors influence walking (or ‘gait’), both in healthy volunteers and patients with neurological disorders that affect walking, such as Parkinson’s disease. The researchers are interested in how a person’s ability to accurately hear the beat affects the way they walk to music. They are also interested in how different musical features change the way we walk when we are instructed to synchronize to the music compared to when we ignore the music.

These investigations will help researchers understand how music can improve walking ability in individuals with neurological disorders. Studies show that music can be an effective form of movement therapy in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, but it is not understood how music improves gait. Musical intervention programs frequently require a patient to synchronize their steps to the beat of a piece of music. However, as Parkinson’s disease patients often show problems in beat perception, synchronizing their steps to the beat may be difficult, and make their walking worse. Thus, the current research projects aim to provide information on how to tailor music for individual patients, whether they have good or poor beat perception ability.

Fore more information visit or contact Dr. Jessica Grahn, Western University 

The NeuroArts Lab at McMaster University is devoted to developing a holistic understanding of the neural, cognitive and evolutionary foundations of the arts including music, dance, the dramatic arts and visual arts.  A unique evolutionary focus of the lab is a revival of comparative musicology studies, including an exploration of the geography and cultural evolution of world music styles.

For more information visit or contact Dr. Steven Brown, McMaster University 

Building on the success of a pilot study with Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis women, the Visualizing Cancer research project aims to further our understanding of  the experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women living with the effects of cancer. This research may help health professionals and others to better understand women’s experiences and may support other women living with cancer.  Participants are invited to document the impact of cancer through photographs and a story journal.  This means that participants themselves determine what aspects of experience should be voiced through the use of creative practices.  This research is being completed in collaboration with Saint Elizabeth and team members representing the University of Ottawa, University of Saskatchewan and the University of New Brunswick.  One of the planned outcomes of the research is a video which will be available to the public at the end of the project.  This research is supported by a Quality of Life Grant from the Canadian Cancer Society in memory of Edna Goebel.

For more information, please contact Principal Investigator Dr. Roanne Thomas at the University of Ottawa.