The influence of music on our body and mind
Healing Aspects of Music Physically and Medically
While the greatest pieces of music will energize and inspire all levels of one’s being, there are musical works that may appeal more specifically to certain aspects of an individual. “Music is not only seen as art and entertainment but as an essential manner of sensorial patterning that increases long-range memory, reading skills and physical development.” Students who sing or play an instrument score up to 51 points higher on SATs than the national average. The remarkable work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis in France has opened remarkable “vistas of education and medicinal possibilities through the music of Mozart and other composers.” Dr. Tomatis continued his study of listening and its fascinating relationship to a wide variety of skills—including balance, posture, musicality, attentiveness, language ability and expressiveness.
In humans, the ear is the first sensory organ to develop, and it is fully functional for and half a month before we are born. Don Campbell lists 50 common conditions ranging from migraines to epilepsy for which music can be used as a treatment or a cure. The director of a Baltimore Hospital coronary care unit says that half an hour of classical music produces the same effect as 10 milligrams of Valium. Campbell states that in the “orchestration of perception, consciousness and expressions we are at a new frontier where arts and sciences can merge”. The physical body reflects the sounds we perceive down to the biochemical level.
According to Clynes, leader of the research center at the New South Wales Conservatorium of music, “several of the great classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert or Brahms, produced a characteristic pulse that became a hallmark of their work.” And it is the pulse, which does much to determine the subtle characteristics of music, that creates a heartbeat effect (80 beats per minute) “that synchronizes the listener’s rhythms to the pulse of relaxation”. A variety of new research techniques are now being used to investigate the various effects of music and sound on the body, mind and spirit. The material summarized below relates to the many physical conditions drawn from current scientific and medical research.
Dr. Dale Taylor provides a clear and fascinating look at “neurophysiology, auditory function and music perception as it applies to stress and pain management, recovery of physical and communication skills and cognition. ”Vollerno believes that music can “excite and strengthen complex patterns for the performance of higher brain functions.” The following data was collected in regard to the physical healing effects of music. In 1994 and 1997, Frances Rauscher and her colleagues used behavioral tests to examine the effect of music instruction on young children’s brain functioning. They found that children who had received music instruction, including keyboard lessons, scored higher in spatial task ability than those who had not.”
Lois Hetland discusses how “listening to music enhances spatial-temporal reasoning.” In 2003, Vesna Ivanov and John Geake were the first to find a Mozart Effect for school children in a natural setting, in contrast to the original study of Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993). “This study found evidence for the existence of a Mozart Effect with upper-primary school-aged children in a school setting.” At Horizon House, an assisted living facility for people with HIV/AIDS in Jacksonville, Florida, sound therapy is an important part of daily activities and the staff employs a vibrotactile technology called Therasound, involving a special mattress with built in speakers. ”They swear of its effectiveness”, reports Ann Bozzuto, R.N., executive director of the Mind/Body Institute of Florida, “especially in the treatment of pain, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and hypertension.”
Ralph Spintge, M.D., executive director of the German-based International Society for Music in Medicine, studies the effects of music on nearly 97,000 patients before, during and after surgery. He found that 97% reported that music helped them relax during their recovery and many said that they felt less of a need for anesthesia. “Soft, tonal music was particularly effective. Listening to slow Baroque or classical music several days prior to surgery and hearing it again in the recovery room reduced their postoperative disorientation.”
In a study of nineteen children aged seven to seventeen with ADD or ADHD, researchers played recordings of Mozart during thrice-weekly neurofeedback sessions for some of the subjects and nothing for the others. “The researchers reported that those who listened to Mozart reduced their theta brain waves in exact rhythm to the underlying beat of the music, and displayed better focus and mood control, diminished impulsivity, and improved social skills. Among subjects who improved, 70% maintained that improvement six months after the end of the study without any further training.”
At the Ireland Cancer Center at the University Hospital of Cleveland, music therapist Deforia Lane reported in 1996 that children given a single half hour music therapy session had improved immune function. “In nineteen subjects, she found significant increase in salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA) after the music session, while in seventeen controls there was a small but not significant decrease.” IgA is an antibody in saliva that protects against harmful bacteria and toxins and is a principal marker in enhanced resistance to disease. Today’s common killer is heart-disease, and the following provides evidence that patients with this fatal disease can still benefit from music therapy:
After installing a music listening system in its six-bed intensive care unit in 1976, Saint Joseph Hospital in New York reported a drop in heart attacks and a death rate 8 to 12 percent below the national average. In 1987, two researchers studied the cardiac reported a significant decrease in heart rate with no clinical arrhythmias and a change toward a happier emotional state. In the journal Heart Lung they reported a significant decrease in heart rate with no clinical arrhythmias and a change toward a happier emotional state.
These examples suggest that the mind can influence the body, so if music influences the mind, what exactly is altered on the emotional level? Emotions are the most challenging areas of our being because they are unpredictable and innumerable.
Music Makes Your Brain Happy
As a rock producer, Daniel Levitin worked with Stevie Wonder, the Grateful Dead and Chris Isaak. But the music business began to change, and a disillusioned Levitin turned to academia, where a career in neuroscience beckoned. Sixteen years after he made the switch, Levitin is an associate professor at McGill University in Montreal and one of the world's leading experts in cognitive music perception.
In his new book, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Levitin explores research into how our brains process the works of artists as varied as Beethoven, the Beatles and Britney Spears, and why they make us feel so good. Wired News picks his brain about how it all works.
Wired News: Are there any myths about music that neuroscientists have exposed?
Daniel Levitin: I think we've debunked the myth of talent. It doesn't appear that there's anything like a music gene or center in the brain that Stevie Wonder has that nobody else has.
There's no evidence that (talented people) have a different brain structure or different wiring than the rest of us initially, although we do know that becoming an expert in anything -- like chess or race-car driving or journalism -- does change the brain and creates circuitry that's more efficient at doing what you're an expert at.
What there might be is a genetic or neural predisposition toward things like patience and eye-hand coordination. (On the other hand), you can be born with a physiology that gives you a pleasant-sounding voice, but that doesn't guarantee you'll have a career as a singer.