World Parkinson Congress Presentation

Drumming and Parkinson's

Heather MacTavish was invited by Dr. Concetta Tomaino of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function to co-present at the 2006 World Parkinson Congress in the category of Care Delivery/Quality-of-Life/Advocacy/Public Policy/Alternative and Complementary Therapies/Creativity.

The Congress was breaking new ground; combining creativity with the sciences to provide in-depth resources and opportunities for researchers, patients, and care providers.

Below is the Abstract accepted by the Congress (since published in Volume 21/Supplement 13, 2006 of the Movement Disorder Journal) that sums up Heather’s work to that point.


The combined use of rhythm, story, and song in group settings serves to challenge minds, ignite spirits, and create new opportunities of expression.

Author: Heather MacTavish, USA


Drum~story~song programs activate the limbic system, ignite positive emotions, enhance cognition, and encourage motor movement, while providing opportunities for cathartic outlet.


Responding to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1995, the presenter launched a personal program to observe, document, and research how her actions and reactions might factor into, or trigger, fluctuations in physical, emotional, and cognitive states. The body-balance sheet was born.

The drum~story~song activity model was bolstered in 1999 by the publication of Phantoms in the Brain—leading to a personal mentoring session with Dr. Eric Altschuler at U.C. San Diego, reviewing research procedures, experiencing Dr. Ramachandran’s mirror technique, and discussing possible applications for individuals with compromised neurologic functioning.

The project was further fostered by Dr. Concetta Tomaino who contributed time and expertise, as well as the Music has Power video—a compelling motivating force and teaching resource featuring the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks and Dr. Tomaino.


Fitness and Wellness, Creativity, Music Therapy, Alternative Therapy


Stories, woven around key refrains from popular vintage songs, foster memory recall and cue the participants to play percussion instruments. Visual cues, eye contact, and body language are used by the facilitator to encourage and enable participation.


Program participants consistently demonstrate increases in positive affect and active participation, improved attention span, socialization skills, and memory recall, and decreases in verbal and physical agitation and pain perception.

Drum~story~song programs foster curiosity, personal successes, and creative expression for individuals with compromised neurological systems.


Drum~story~songs are fun!

When her Abstract was accepted, Heather was delighted to receive what she calls her first honorary doctorate which read:

“Dear Dr. MacTavish:

"Congratulations! Your abstract entitled “Videotapes of the drum~story~song activity model (an interactive facilitated activity blending rhythm, stories, and songs with cluing and positive triggering techniques) enhances the movement, attention, and communication responses of individuals with compromised neurologic systems.” has been accepted for presentation for the World Parkinson Congress, February 22-26, 2006 to be held in Washington, DC, USA.”

We are indebted to Dr. Samay Jain for his patience and guidance in putting the poster presentation in a format acceptable by the medical and scientific communities.

A summary of the poster session will be posted soon.


Movement Disorders

Body Balance Sheet

Songs, Science  Spirit by Heather MacTavish available here, securely from Amazon

Please click on the image above to purchase Songs, Science & Spirit! Your purchase will support the World Centre for Creative Learning Foundation, formed by Zubin Balsara, based in Pune,India.

Heather Speaks of the Power of Rhythm on YouTube

Heather MacTavish speaks of the power of rhythm, woven into footage of her Songs, Science & Spirit program conducted at the Windchime Memory Unit in Marin, California. Directed and photographed by Warren Saire. Click Here

Zubin and Heather's India Drum-Story-Song Presentation at the Rotary Club

Zubin Balsara and Heather MacTavish present a Drum-Story-Song to the Rotary Club of Mumbai, India. Click Here