We’re in Toronto this week with curator Sarah Faber (@sciencebanshee), a PhD student in psychology at the University of Toronto, Canada. Sarah has a bachelor’s in music therapy from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a master’s degree in music, mind and technology from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. A lifelong musician, Sarah was drawn to music therapy as a way to combine music and science, finding that individuals with advanced neurodegenerative diseases maintained the ability to communicate using music. She is currently researching functional brain connectivity during music listening in individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Here’s Sarah’s STEM story!
How did you choose science?
It was a really roundabout journey. I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid, and wanted to be a palaeontologist for the longest time (who doesn’t love dinosaurs?!). There was always music in the house (Dad plays guitar, Mom sings), and there were a lot of ceilidhs (informal music parties), but I really fell in love with orchestral music when I started band. I eventually went to university for music performance after a brief but serious semester contemplating geology as a career path. I still loved science, I just couldn’t figure out how to combine it with music. And then I found music therapy. I changed majors and started studying psychology in addition to my performance courses, which gave me a whole new outlook on music and how it can be used therapeutically.
What motivated your current work?
I worked in adult forensic and geriatric mental health as a music therapist, and seeing how these individuals, including those with some pretty serious illnesses, were able to use, create, and enjoy music was the initial motivation behind going to graduate school in the first place. I did a master’s in music psychology where I, again, fell in love; this time with the brain (and Finnish cardamom bread. Seriously. It’s delicious.), and started researching what happens in the brain when people listen to and create music. That’s brought me to the university of Toronto where I’m investigating how these patterns of brain activity change as we age normally and with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
What do you hope to convey with your work?
Music is an incredibly important part of life for a lot of people. Studying how people’s brains respond to music will give us valuable information about how music can be used therapeutically, which is vital work for advocates of music and creative arts therapies. On the flip side, the brain is (shocker) a complicated thing. Understanding how it processes complex information (like music) is hugely important to neuroscience and will help with the study of even more complex social behaviours. I just want everyone to be best friends is what I’m saying.
Please welcome Sarah to Real Scientists!