Healing through Music - Music and social cohesion


Institutional Communication Service

5 December 2022

Being involved in music plays a vital role in creating social bonds between individuals and groups, which in turn promotes health and well-being. Recent research has identified neural mechanisms through which singing, dancing and making music together create feelings of accomplishment that endure even when group musical activity has ended. This lecture will summarise the evolutionary history and role of musicality and socialising in the lives of our earliest ancestors before reviewing the current understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that create this link. It will also consider how the socially cohesive effects of music have been intentionally harnessed for various purposes, from modern medicine to economic and political advantage through social manipulation.


  • Steven Mithen, archaeologist, University of Reading (UK)


  • Deborah Parker, musician and music therapist, Prima Materia Association, Montespertoli (I)


  • Peter Schulz, USI professor, Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society


Steven Mithen

He is an archaeologist at the University of Reading (UK). He graduated in Prehistory and Archaeology from Sheffield University in 1983 and completed an MSc in Biological Computing at the University of York. From 1984 to 1988 he obtained his PhD on the decision-making process of prehistoric hunter-gatherers from Cambridge University. This developed his interest in the evolution of the human brain, language and music.


Deborah Parker

She studied music at York University (UK) and completed her master's degree as a cellist at the Musikhochschule Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany). She later settled in Italy, before completing a master's degree as a music therapist in Assisi and Cambridge. She is a founding member of the Prima Materia Association, as well as educational co-ordinator of the association's community music project in Montespertoli, which includes a music therapy clinic. She works as a music therapy trainer, leading professional courses all over Italy.


Peter Schulz

Professor of Communication Theories and Health Communication at USI. His work has aimed to combine the humanities, social sciences and information technology to explore important issues in health communication. Since 2017, he has also been an honorary professor at ANU (the Australian National University, Canberra).


Music programme

Grabit for tenor saxophone and ghettoblaster - Jacob ter Veldhuis (1951*)
Performed by: Ivan Perdomo (sassofono) and Danilo Gervasoni (live electronics)


Find the complete course programme here