Meet the Scientist: Baylor sophomore presents research on music therapy

Student Rhea Vikas presented her own research on music therapy at the Mayborn Museum, discussing the affects of music on the brain and how to apply that information. Photo Courtesy of Rhea Vikas

By Katelyn Patterson | Reporter

Is music therapy the new superhero against mood disorders? The Meet the Scientist event on Saturday at the Mayborn Museum explained how music can affect the brain and how this can be used in different ways.

Katy sophomore Rhea Vikas has been researching music therapy since she was in high school. She was able to present parts of her research to children and their parents this past weekend.

“I wanted to spread the word out to a bunch of kids [to] just keep getting into music, listening to music, be familiar with it, maybe even pick up an instrument because all of these things will really help with your brain chemistry in the future,” Vikas said.

Graduate student and member of the Volunteer Engagement Team for the Mayborn Museum, Kaleigh Reid, said Meet the Scientist is a volunteer event where scientists can come, be trained and have the opportunity to present their research to museum-goers.

“We bring them in for training, through something called the portal to the public training,” Reid said. “We go through how to engage on the floor of the museum and help people translate their big, fancy research projects into something that the average person can understand.”

Vikas’ presentation began with her playing a song for the kids who came up to her table. She would ask them how the song made them feel, and then she would go through her slideshow, which highlighted different parts of the brain and what listening to happy, sad or neutral music does to each part.

“Listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical,” one slide said. “Music has the ability to alter breathing and heart rate.”

Vikas said she believes medicine is moving in a more holistic direction, and she wants to make people aware of the options they have.

“I kind of want to start young, with the youth, and let them know about it,” Vikas said. “They’re the next people that are going into healthcare.”

Vikas’ research in music therapy reaches multiple groups of people, ranging from Alzheimer’s patients, to children with autism and younger children in general.

“In high school, I did research on how music therapy helps Alzheimer’s patients’ moods,” Vikas said. “When I came to Baylor, I started working with someone in the Communication Sciences and Disorders lab, and they told me how much music can help kids with autism and ADHD.”

The Portal to the Public Network is a collaborative effort by the Baylor science departments and the Mayborn Museum to connect the community with the scientific research being conducted at Baylor.