Horizons of personalized music therapy

Josef Ressel Centre for establishing principles of personalised music therapy – research into music therapy processes and relationships in selected areas of neurological rehabilitation. Location of the Centre is Krems University of Applied Sciences.

This Josef Ressel Centre is dedicated to devising evidence-based scientific principles for personalised music therapy in selected areas of neurological rehabilitation. Many clinical case reports prepared in the course of the therapy process include descriptions of resonance experienced between the therapist and the patient. Such phenomena are difficult to comprehend scientifically, but are even described in accounts of music therapy treatment of patients with serious brain damage (e.g. traumatic brain injury, hypoxia, stroke, etc.). The St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences is a research partner in the Josef Ressel Centre

Research team

The research team’s work is based on the belief that such perceptions of resonance are an expression of an existential, anthropologically-based need to understand and be understood. It is thought that these must have a physiological analogy and are therefore open to detailed scientific research.


The aim of this Josef Ressel Centre is to identify, using a range of scientific methods, the conditions under which such specific therapeutic encounters can be replicated – even though each one is unique – and how therapists can develop their capacity for empathy to this end

Special feature

The distinguishing feature of this Josef Ressel Centre is the combination of various scientific and methods-based approaches (videography, ECG, EEG, etc.), although a means of synchronising them still needs to be developed.

Scope of Research

The primary research focus is geared towards determining the optimum window of opportunity for music-therapy stimulus for each individual patient. Patients are thought to be most receptive during this window, while at the same time therapists are at their most observant and most capable of empathy. The goal is also to determine how much time patients require to process the stimulus provided in a particular therapy session so that they are in a position to take on the next stimulus, as well as the period after which therapists are able to concentrate on the next treatment session. In the first phase of the Josef Ressel Centre, reproducible procedures for recognising such a window will be developed with the help of students, using biometric processes (electrocardiograms and electroencephalograms) and video analysis. Subsequently, therapeutically significant points in the music therapy process within this window (known as therapeutic encounters) will be identified. The findings will be implemented in practice from the third year onwards. The second research focus looks at how students and therapists can develop or enhance their empathic abilities, in order to establish resonance with patients. To begin with, methods will be developed for the biological and psychological identification and quantification of empathic reactions. Students’ oxytocin and cortisone levels and heart rate variability will be measured following stimulation using appropriate film sequences, and psychometric tests will also be carried out. For instance, this will enable differences between individuals to be discerned and a record to be kept of the progress made in training. The research is aimed at drawing up evidence-based principles for the application of music therapy in neurological rehabilitation.

Josef Ressel Centres

The Josef Ressel Centres carry out high-level application-driven research, which involves collaboration between outstanding researchers and innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Association's support for such collaboration is an example of best practice worldwide.

The Josef Ressel Centres are jointly funded by the Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft (BMWFW) and the participating companies.