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New video created to highlight the impact of music on brain and mental health has UCC Stomping Out loud! 

Dr. Eva McMullan, lecturer at UCC’s Department of Music has created a video featuring APC Microbiome Ireland researchers, the UCC Choir, body percussion composed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas from the percussion group STOMP and an Allen Billingsley arrangement of the Pentatonix cover of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal. ‘Stomping Out loud! Music and the Brain’ will premiere for the public, virtually on the 11am coffee break next Monday 22 March. The launch coincides with the Spring Equinox which takes place this weekend on Saturday 20 March and comes on the heels of Brain Awareness Week (March 15th to 21st 2021).

The video was inspired by Dr Eva McMullan’s MSc project which investigates the neurological effects of Musical Training in Children with Down Syndrome. Her research is funded by UCC’s College of Medicine and Health and affiliated with the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience under the supervision of Professor Yvonne Nolan and Drs Jason Chan and Annalisa Setti, School of Applied Psychology. Professor Yvonne Nolan is a professor in Neuroscience and a Science Foundation Ireland Investigator at APC Microbiome Ireland in University College Cork. She leads a research team focused on understanding how lifestyle factors at vulnerable times in the life course impact upon brain plasticity, memory and mood.

Dr McMullan who is a lecturer in UCC’s Department of Music and director of the University College Cork Choir believes that music has a positive impact on mental well-being, especially in the current global context of the COVID-19 pandemic where massive numbers of society are vulnerable to social isolation and mental illness. She decided to create the video because “We want to empower those that are suffering with mental illness with a knowledge of the power of music on brain health. We hope to encourage policy makers and those in government to see music not just as a creative outlet but an integral factor in brain health. Here in UCC, we hope to encourage collaborative research projects across these disciplines. ‘Stomping Out loud! Music and the Brain’ showcases how all ages and demographics are receptive to the transformative power of music underscoring the need for deeper research in the area.”

UCC’s newly appointed Vice President for Research and Innovation Professor John Cryan is invested in facilitating greater interdisciplinary collaboration between arts and sciences. He says “Music is such a lifeforce. It is important that the science of how it links to brain health and wellbeing is explored. Each of us knows what it is to feel moved by music and inspired to dance and sing, Eva and Yvonne’s cross-disciplinary research in the area is a welcome and fascinating starting point. Moreover, it is an exemplar of the cross-disciplinary research that we promote in UCC and APC Microbiome Ireland”

STOMP, founded by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, is a dynamic percussion group that has received much international recognition for their innovative compositions. They have kindly provided body percussion and a unique motif to promote the initiative. The choral piece is an Allen Billingsley arrangement of the Pentatonix cover of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal, which is performed by the University College Cork Choir under the direction of Dr Eva McMullan. The brilliant video and audio editing is done by UCC Music Department graduate JJ Riordan. APC Microbiome Ireland staff and researchers engaged with the project by recording a piece of body percussion for the soundtrack and video. Further body percussion was performed for the video by residents of Haven Bay Care Centre, Kinsale, Brian Morrissey and his extended family, Livvy McElligott, Zach Sexton and Oscar and Louis Slattery. This is not the first time UCC Choir have collaborated on a video project with Dr McMullan, previously they performed a version of ‘I’m Still Standing’ and created a video to send a positive message to all and to raise much needed funds for cancer research.

Pendulum Summit founder and former Munster and Ireland Rugby International, Frankie Sheahan, got involved through his mother Catherine who is part of UCC Choir. He gives the introduction on the video and says “Dr Eva McMullan and Prof. Yvonne Nolan are doing amazing collaborative research on the link between the brain and music. Going back to my rugby playing days, we always used music and I did going to matches. It really helped, promoted, getting into that peak-flow state, to maximise my performance when it came to big matches. It has really helped me in all of those areas of well being and helping to lift your mood.”

Dr McMullan says that throughout this pandemic music and musicians have played an integral role in getting people through the toughest of times that this country has faced. “Music, in many ways, has helped form a connection to the ‘norm’, to ‘people’, to ‘society’ in a way that no other medium could. Music as a prominent medium to support mental and brain health has never been so relevant.” Further research in this area is greatly needed as we try and find more effective ways to help our vulnerable in society. Everyone is vulnerable at some point in their lives, so therefore this research is crucial to everyone for Stomping Out loud!

Watch the video here.