Study Update!

April 15th, 2013

Our exciting clinical trial being conducted at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s Cardiac Rehab program is well under way.  All of our participants have been recruited, administered the intervention, and are currently completing the 3 month trial; 2/3 with the personalized, pace-synchronized music playlists, and 1/3 without.  Responses have been overwhelmingly positive and the preliminary data coming in shows a positive influence on a number of physiological and psychological markers in those using the playlists.  In addition to the positive response amongst the participants, we were also recently featured on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet. Daily Planet came to Toronto Rehabilitation and interviewed our very own Dr. David Alter and Dr. Lee Bartel for a very interesting piece about music and exercise, check it out here: (MAINTAIN study comes on about 8 minutes in).

News Release

December 10th, 2012

We are very excited that our cardiac music study has gotten underway. Recently, the Ontario Centres of Excellence released a news release outlining the study!  Read below..

Innovative music-based cardiac recovery device will play music for the heart

December 5, 2012

TORONTO, Dec. 5, 2012 – You’ve heard of music being played from the heart or with heart. Well how about music for the heart?Vigour Projects, a subsidiary of SoulCan Music Ltd., has been awarded $49,900 from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) for an innovative approach to helping cardiac patients through the use of music.The funding came from OCE’s Social Innovation program for social enterprises and not-for-profits working in health improvement and will be matched by industry and academic cash and in-kind contributions worth an additional $50,000.

The project will advance collaborations between Vigour Projects, Headwaters Research and Development Inc. and the University of Toronto to invent and test a physiological sensory music-assisted device that will better motivate cardiac rehabilitation patients to exercise.

“The collaboration is a great demonstration of organizations uniting to develop a cutting edge technology that will ultimately help quite a large group of individuals sustain a longer life expectancy,” explains Denise Brennan, Program Manager, Social Innovation, Ontario Centres of Excellence.

This particular project brings academic scientists from the partners, ambulatory community cardiology clinics and the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (the largest cardiac rehabilitation program of its kind in Canada) to collaborate and create a device designed to monitor and sense an individual’s physiological parameters to music and to encourage increased activity levels.

Based on their personal preferences, users of the device will select a music playlist which researchers will then use to shape the audio music file output based on tempo, various rhythms, and genre to help determine an individual’s optimal prescribed exercise activity level.

Up to 45 volunteers will try out the device over a 12-week period. Ongoing tests will be conducted to assess and monitor exercise motivation; exercise self-management self-efficacy and adherence to exercise. Other measures and subjective opinions about the role of music in exercise will also be collected and analyzed.

“The funding Vigour has received from OCE, in-kind and from industry will enable us to monitor and motivate patients who are generally resistant to exercise due to their physical and/or motivational limitations,” explains Dr. David Alter, Cardiologist, Clinical Epidemiologist, Research Director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Program, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Founder President, Vigour Projects. “The work we will be undertaking using music as a behavioural motivator and a physiological regulator will not only encourage patients to become more physically active in their daily activities without even realizing it, it will ultimately help to decrease mortality rates by encouraging them to adopt a more active lifestyle with subtle progression.”

The Ontario Centres of Excellence Social Innovation program encourages industry, academia, not-for-profit organizations and social enterprises to build new and enhance existing partnerships. The program is also a vehicle for academic engagement, leveraging research expertise to address social and environmental problems.

OCE’s Social Innovation program is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI), the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI), and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS). SiG@MaRS is a strategic partner in this initiative.

About Vigour Projects
Vigour Projects (SoulCan Music LTD) is a Social Purpose Business dedicated to exploring and pursuing the positive impact that music can have on the health of individuals and communities. The organization brings together cutting-edge medical research and artistic expression toward a goal of community health and development.  Vigour Projects’ mission is to actively improve health through music. Our organization is unique in that most are both musicians and health providers/health researchers. We work collaboratively with academic institutions, hospitals, government, non-profits, and the private-sector. We focus heavily on three music-health themes: (1) Knowledge-translation (to improve the dissemination of medical and health promotion related education to individuals through the delivery of music); (2) community social engagement through music-related activities; (3) Health-music technology innovation (music assistive devices to improve health and quality of life). (SoulCan Music LTD) is a MaRS Social Innovation Group listed company. Vigour Projects wishes to acknowledge the support by PAM BV for the provision of physical activity monitors to help evaluate the role of music with exercise. PAM BV is a Dutch company aimed at developing scientific-based, validated, and quality, activity monitors to inspire people to get moving.

About Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
One of North America’s leading rehabilitation sciences centres, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute is revolutionizing rehabilitation by helping people overcome the challenges of disabling injury, illness or age related health conditions to live active, healthier, more independent lives. It integrates innovative patient care, groundbreaking research and diverse education to build healthier communities and advance the role of rehabilitation in the health system.  Toronto Rehab, along with Toronto Western, Toronto General and Princess Margaret Hospitals, is a member of the University Health Network and is affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. (
Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario’s global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario’s industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and governments. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, Ontario Centres of Excellence invests in sectors such as advanced health, digital media and information communications, advanced manufacturing and materials, and cleantech including energy, environment and water. OCE through its Centre for Commercialization of Research (CCR), an initiative supported by the federal government, also acts as a catalyst which allows innovative businesses to grow and achieve sustainable commercial success and global competitiveness. Ontario Centres of Excellence is a key partner in delivering Ontario’s Innovation Agenda as a member of the province’s Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE). Funded by the Government of Ontario, the ONE is Ontario’s innovation system. The ONE is made up of regional and sector focused organizations designed to help Ontario-based entrepreneurs rapidly grow their companies, and create jobs. For more information

VMI Follow-Up and Publication

November 5th, 2012

Last year we wrote about Bloorview’s VMI program whereby virtual instruments were used as a part of the children’s therapy. The program has come a long way since it was first implemented, most recently with a publication promoting such technologies, featured below.

The Virtual Music Instrument addresses limitations by providing children with an interface that enables them to play music without having to hold or manipulate an instrument. The VMI is non-invasive and translated physical gestures and movements into music, even the smallest movement of an eyebrow! Brining the therapeutic benefits of music to children with disabilities.

The VMI was designed and engineered by Tom Chau and the PRISM Lab in the Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto. It was originally conceived to be used as a tool for occupational therapists to use to encourage disabled children to be more physically active.

In November 2011, the VMI was operated  for the first time in a public concert setting. A disabled performer performed onstage along side  a professional chamber orchestra. The disabled performer activated the software by moving his head in order for him to perform the cello part of Pachabel’s canon! The concert was successful and gave way to another big push for these assistive technologies and musical based integration into our rehabilitation programs. Recently, our very own Dr. David Alter was published along with other prominent researchers in this field in Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice with a paper entitled Disability and artistic performance: Reconsidering rehabilitation and assistive technology

More access to the paper to come soon! Stay tuned!

Read more about the VMI here


Beware! The CNE!

August 16th, 2012

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Concert Going in Our City

August 8th, 2012

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Power Walk Your Way to Health

August 7th, 2012

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Just the Right Amount of Motivation!

July 30th, 2012

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Fresh Wednesdays

July 25th, 2012

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Super Foods to the Rescue

July 23rd, 2012

A healthy diet incorporating a variety of so-called ‘superfoods’ will help you maintain your weight, fight disease, and live longer. The term “superfood” is sometimes used to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits. So, where to begin?

Here are 7 easy (and delicious!) superfoods to integrate into your diet for heart healthy nutrition benefits that’ll have you asking for more.

Almonds: Almonds are one of the most nutritious of all nuts. Almonds charge you with omega-3 fatty acids and protein! These nuts are packed with anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Avocado: Each serving of creamy, delicious avocado offers nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Often referred to as nature’s butter, avocado is nutritious and very delicious!

Blueberries: Blueberries are the poster children for superfoods. Blueberries are anti-oxidant and vitamin packed and are a great addition to any meal!

Broccoli: The nutritional value of broccoli combined with its low calories make this vegetable a must have on any healthy eating plan. There is strong evidence that broccoli may reduce the risk of heart disease. It is an antioxidant and helps with stress.

Cranberries: Cranberries, like blueberries are very high in antioxidant power. Cranberries, although most often eaten dried or in smoothies, are delicious and help lower bad cholesterol.

Kale: Growing in popularity, kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients. Try these delicious Kale chip recipes for a tasty but healthy dessert option: Recipe (Kale Chips)

Quinoa: Pronounced “Keen-Wah“, quinoa is a complete protein option that contains all non-essential amino acids.  Quinoa is is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Manganese

With so many superfoods to choose from, there are many ways to integrate them into your diet to reap all of their benefits. Check out all these superfood recipes for new and exciting ways to incorporate them into your day!

Tweet us @vigourprojects  and tell us about your superfood recipes!

Squeaky Clean Air (healthy bodies too)!

July 18th, 2012

The UHN has been participating in the Clean Air Commute, and just recently had it’s most successful year ever! The Clean Air Commute is a week-long event put on by Pollution Probe to encourage people to get to work by something other than driving alone…think Active like biking  and walking…or Group like public transportation and carpooling. This was an exceptionally successful event tons of workplaces across the GTA, Ontario and other parts of Canada joined the 20th Clean Air Commute fun from June 18-24. 257 workplaces participated compared with 189 last year. And with their smog calculator, they figured out they avoided releasing 555 tonnes of pollutants, even better than last year’s 480 tonnes.

Now, for us health conscious folk, how would we fair after a weeklong active commute ? Give it a try! Bicycling 20 kph is a “moderate effort,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Health. When you bicycle 20 kph, you burn about 55 calories per km if you weigh 190 pounds, about 43 calories per mile if you’re 155 pounds and about 36 calories per mile if you’re 130 pounds.  Walking, as a rule of thumb, will burn  90 calories per km for a 180-pound person and 60 for a 120-pound person.

So, why not do your own personal Clean Commute starting next Monday? 5 days of buses, trains, bikes, or walking for a healthier you! If you are interested in implementing a Clean Commute at your company, register here.

Get out there!