Drexel, Johns Hopkins combine for new research | The Triangle

Drexel, Johns Hopkins combine for new research

The shared research interest in creative arts therapies between Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions and the International Arts + Mind Lab of the Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University has led to the decision to collaborate on new creative arts therapies utilizing virtual reality.

Representatives from each university will examine the use of virtual reality in established art therapy sessions. Girija Kaimal is an assistant professor in CNHP’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies. Her research focuses on understanding the way that self-expression affects human emotion and other brain processes.

Susan Magsamen is the executive director at the IAM Lab. Magsamen pioneered the Impact Thinking model. At the lab, she combines interdisciplinary, evidence-based research with practical, applicable ideas and programs.

There has been no research previously done on how art therapy can be successfully integrated into a virtual reality-based experience to enhance patient care. Traditional art therapy has to do with using physical materials and art-making processes to help patients manage challenges like trauma or everyday stress. It is all about delivering successful mental health interventions using art and creative expression.

Findings from Kaimal and Magsamen’s research could help expand arts therapy opportunities into clinical places like physical rehabilitation and to clinical populations like those who are facing physical challenges and stressors.

“We are very excited to explore innovative art therapies and its impact in our lives,” Kaimal said. “This promising partnership brings together two institutions invested in creative approaches to promoting health and enhancing well-being across the lifespan.”

This project will bring together IAM Lab’s Impact Thinking model and CNHP’s expertise on creative arts therapies in clinical practice and research.

“Drexel is at the forefront of rigorous research in the arts as solutions for health and well-being,” Magsamen said. “Using the IAM Lab’s Impact Thinking model — a consensus framework for problem identification, research, translation, dissemination and outcome evaluation using the arts — we hope to add knowledge for our growing field and enhance practice.”  

Kaimal and Magsamen will also collaborate on seminars planned by IAM Lab for this year and 2020. They will focus on collaborative discovery, dissemination and applied research methods in neuroaesthetics. This marks the second project between Johns Hopkins and Drexel University’s CNHP.  

The Tailored Activity Program, developed by CNHP dean, Laura H. Gitlin while she attended the JHU School of Nursing, was involved in the first collaborative project between JHU and Drexel. This is a program that assesses the abilities and interests of a person living with dementia and then acts as an aid to caregivers by developing activities for the patient and teaching them to the caregivers. These activities may include crafting, listening to music and cooking.

Research and examination of the program is ongoing. While Drexel University Online is still working on research, the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center outpatient day program are examining the possible physiological mechanisms of TAP. Collected salivary specimens are used to determine if TAP participation is able to reduce physiological stress in patients.

“Results from previous clinical trials suggest TAP mitigates unwanted behavioral and psychological symptoms, helps to maintain daily function and improves caregiver well being,” Gitlin said. “This project will extend our understanding of TAP by examining its effects on physiological distress.”

TAP is going overseas and being used as part of Scotland’s national dementia care plan,  as well as other countries. Drexel’s CNHP also wants to eventually implement the program.