Celebrate the Science of Music and the Brain

I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I awoke to the fact that my life's work–a drummer in a rock and roll band–had a spirit side, a science side, and a healing side. But it happened.

And the past few Dead & Company shows have touched all of those sides.

We pulsed together. We created rhythm together. We healed together. 

My ongoing research into the science of music and rhythm is taking me to a very special event that's close to my heart. On Nov. 9th I'm attending the annual gathering for the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF) in New York.

I'll be presenting the 2015 Music Has Power Award to Dr. Daniel J. Levitin–a neuroscientist, musician and best-selling author of "This Is Your Brain on Music." The award recognizes individuals in the arts, sciences, and business communities whose contributions advance the IMNF’s groundbreaking music therapy research, programs and treatments.

Previous recipients include myself–I'm proud to say–along with the late Dr. Oliver Sacks, and drum pioneer Remo Belli.

Oliver Sacks and I first met in 1991 when we were invited to address the U.S. Senate Committee On Aging. We shared a deep Grateful Dead connection. Oliver discovered that the music of the Grateful Dead was able to penetrate the communication barrier for one of his patients. There is a movie adapted from Oliver's essay, "The Last Hippie" called "The Music Never Stopped" that I highly recommend viewing. Our speech for the Senate can be found here. Watch the movie via Netflix here.

I’ve long supported IMNF–a leading authority in clinical music therapy treatment, research and education–and their mission "to seek to establish new knowledge and develop more effective therapies which awaken, stimulate and heal through the extraordinary power of music."

During the daylong forum in New York City, I'll meet with experts in the study of brain functioning, along with artists, musicians, and therapists.

Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a research neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and I will present our "Rhythm and the Brain Project." Our research aims to identify rhythms that can stimulate different parts of diseased and damaged brains. You can view the recent PBS Newshour coverage of the project here.

As much as I love touring with Dead & Company and sharing our music with our fans, it's equally important to me to continue exploring the healing power of rhythm. I believe the world's extraordinary musical diversity and rhythms point to a deeper realm, a landscape that we're only beginning to discover and map.

Shamans traditionally used drums and rattles to heal. So music and rhythm therapy isn't something we’re inventing. But through scientific investigation we're greatly expanding our knowledge.

Always in rhythm,




Tickets for the awards dinner available here.

Learn more about the institute here.

Watch an interview with Oliver about the "Last Hippie" here.

Learn about Dr. Levitin here.