Major health benefits of music uncovered

(Medical Xpress)—In the first large-scale review of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music, a team led by Prof. Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University's Psychology Dept. has been able to show that playing and listening to music has clear benefits for both mental and physical health. In particular, music was found both to improve the body's immune system function and to reduce levels of stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety prior to surgery.

"We've found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics," says Prof. Levitin. "But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding."

Indeed, the information gathered as part of this first large-scale review of the literature showed that music increased both immunoglobulin A, an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity of the mucous system, and natural killer cell counts (the cells that attack invading germs and bacteria). Levitin and his postgraduate research fellow, Dr. Chanda, also found that listening to and playing music reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body.

The authors suggest a number of areas for future experiments in the field. These include uncovering the connection between oxytocin, the so-called "love drug", group affiliation and music; administering the drug naltrexone (an used during ) to uncover whether musical pleasure is promoted by the same chemical systems in the brain activated by other forms of pleasure such as food; and experiments in which patients are randomly assigned to musical intervention or a rigorously matched control condition in post-operative or chronic pain trials. Suitable controls might include films, TV, comedy recordings, or audio books.

Finally, the authors lay out a framework for future research with questions such as are the beneficial effects of music due to distraction, mood induction, feelings of social bonding/support, or other factors? What are the different effects, if any, of playing vs. listening to music? Are some people more likely to experience positive effects of music than others? If so, what individual differences (e.g. personality traits, genetic or biological factors) contribute to the effectiveness of music interventions? What is the role of oxytocin, "the love drug" in mediating musical experience? What stimuli can be used as a basis of comparison to match music along dimensions of arousal, attractiveness or lack thereof, engagement, and mood induction?

To read the article/ an abstract of the article: Trends in Cognitive Science

Related Stories

Music reduces anxiety in cancer patients

date Aug 10, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Cancer patients may benefit from sessions with trained music therapists or from listening to music. A new Cochrane systematic review shows using music can reduce anxiety in cancer patients, and may also ...

Music choice reflects mood

date Jun 08, 2012

(Phys.org) -- What kind of music are you in the mood for? A new smartphone app designed to recommend music according to how listeners feel could provide insight into teen mental health.

Feeling chills in response to music

date Dec 07, 2010

Most people feel chills and shivers in response to music that thrills them, but some people feel these chills often and others feel them hardly at all. People who are particularly open to new experiences are most likely to ...

Music reduces stress in heart disease patients

date Apr 15, 2009

Listening to music may benefit patients who suffer severe stress and anxiety associated with having and undergoing treatment for coronary heart disease. A Cochrane Systematic Review found that listening to music could decrease ...

Recommended for you

Depression, suicide and the workplace - Q&A

date Mar 27, 2015

Expert opinions on the potential link between depression and the suspected mass murder-suicide of a Germanwings co-pilot who flew an Airbus into the French Alps Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board:

Study adds evidence on link between PTSD, heart disease

date Mar 26, 2015

In a study of more than 8,000 veterans living in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, those with posttraumatic stress disorder had a nearly 50 percent greater risk of developing heart failure over about a seven-year ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.