Music is sound, which enters the outer ear and passes through the middle ear into the inner ear and the brain by means of electrical energy. In the brain, it can generate motor responses, draw emotions, release hormones and trigger higher-order processes. The brain develops its response as it perceives the sound. If a loud sound creates fright, calm music can soothe.
Records on music therapy date as far back as Aristotle and Plato. Egyptian and Biblical documents also bear out that music was used to lighten illness and sorrow. American and European researchers in 1800 discovered the connection between music and the states of the body and the mind. They measured the connection in terms of cardiac output, rate of breathing, pulse and blood pressure. Numerous studies on the effect of music on health have been conducted since the 80s. Dr. Susan Hallam of the Department of Psychology and Special Education of the Institute of London gathered and evaluated more than 200 scientific studies, reports and books on the health effects of music. Collective research revealed that music has strong therapeutic effects. It can alter behavior, mood and emotional, physiological and cognitive states. It can reduce anxiety, pain, drug dosages by as high as 50%. It promotes well-being, improves symptoms of psychiatric patients, reduces depression and promotes rehabilitation and recovery. It enhances the production of stress-related hormones and painkillers. Her findings showed that music influences physiological arousal according to the type of music. Loud and fast music tends to excite and arouse. Calming music tends to soothe. Physically, the heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, muscular tension, motor responses and skin temperature tend to rise with fast and loud music. These tend to go down in response to slow, soft music.
Dr. Hallam also says that music influences activity levels, mood, concentration, health, well-being and intelligence. It can increase or decrease levels of secretory immunoglobin a, which goes up during immune system activity. It can also induce elation or depression and patients' perception of pain. Music can be used as a self-enhancement tool according to one's purpose or intent. Fast-paced, lively or loud music should be used to rouse oneself in the morning; perk up during the day instead of drinking coffee; and work out with matching music. This type of music helps one work longer, harder and probably with less effort. It can drive out depression, anxiety, negative feelings or thoughts and raise self-confidence. It can also release anger, aggressive or any negative feeling or thought. In contrast, slow and soft music relaxes stress and soothes irritation; stretches the mind and feeling after a workout; allows down eating; and induces sleep.
Those who have discovered the benefits of music to health and well-being have collected music pieces of their preference. One should observe what effects certain music has on himself. A portable CD or tape player and headphones should be used if appropriate music pieces are carried to bring about particular effects.
Vibrant Life (2002). Effect of Music on Blood Pressure. Journal of the American Medical Association: Review and Herald Publishing
Music will not replace change in lifestyle or medications in dealing with hypertension. But findings of a new study showed that it can help in preventing the ailment. This study gathered the responses of 50 male surgeons who tackled difficult mental arithmetic tasks. Despite their high level skills, the tasks often raise their blood pressure and heartbeat. Those who listened to music while performing the tasks experienced the least increase in blood pressure. Those who did not listen experienced the highest number of hypertension occurrences by 23 points and diastolic by 15 points. Moreover, the speed and accuracy of their tasks scored better by listening to music.
Klotter, J. (2001). Music and Alzheimer's. Townsend Letter to Doctors and Patients: The Townsend Letter Group music therapy program reported increased melatonin levels, improved behavior and reduced sleeping problems in the 20 male respondents suffering from Alzheimer's. The respondents had 30 to 40 minutes of music therapy, five days per week for a month. The test used blood samples throughout the investigation. The leader, Dr. Ardash Kumar, and his associates at the University of Miami, School of Medicine in Florida examined the levels of melatonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin and prolactin. These brain chemicals affect the mental state of sufferers of Alzheimer's. They found that the blood levels of these chemicals significantly increased at the end of the therapy schedule. Furthermore, melatonin levels remained high for 6 weeks after the cessation of therapy. The researchers estimated that epinephrine and norepinephrine levels would have returned to their original readings. The respondents were also reported to be more active and cooperative and that they slept better.
Dr. Kumar said that the use of music to calm oneself down is very helpful. He advised that favorite and soothing music be listened to during meals, before sleeping and when relaxation is desired or needed. He also believed that music therapy could even be a safer and more effective substitute to many habit-forming psychotropic drugs. Music can help maintain hormonal and emotional balance even when stressed or ill.
Turner, Judith (2001). Music Therapy. Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine: Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine
The impressive health benefits of music to World War II veteran patients encouraged studies and the formation of music therapy. Degrees in the new line began to be offered in the late 40s and 50s. The first association of music therapists, the National Association of Music, was organized. It later merged with the American Association of Music in 1998 to form the American Music Therapy Association.
Music can be used as a complementary mode of therapy as well as by healthy individuals to relax, reduce normal stress or improve the mood or as a hefty accompaniment to exercise or movement. Music also helps improve communication, enhance academic abilities and accomplishments, increase attention span and sharpen motor skills. It has been found useful in behavioral therapy and pain management.
Brain function undergoes physical changes in response to music. Breathing can become slower and calm it. The speed of the heartbeat either speeds up or slows down according to the type of music heard and the volume. It relaxes muscle tension and improves motor skills. It has been of particular benefit in rehab clinics as a kind of pacifier. Levels of natural painkillers called endorphins go up and those of stress hormones go down when one listens to music. The decrease of stress hormones points to the ability of music to boost the immune function by raising interleukin-1 levels. This was the finding of a 1993 study at the Michigan State University with respondents who were made to listen to music every 15 minutes.
Mentally, music can sharpen mental capacity or help relax the mind. It can enhance memory and learning, especially in children with learning disabilities. Music can likewise increase concentration. Overall, improved concentration results in greater productivity. A specific example is the "Mozart effect" whereby college students can do math computations better while listening to classical music.
As to its emotional effects, music releases feelings, tones down tension and excitement, or creates a romantic atmosphere. Lullabies are an example for soothing babies to sleep. It has been used as an effective way of expressing emotions indirectly and as such, presents as a very important therapeutic tool to some disorders.
The music therapist determines the goal and specific activities and exercises suited to the specific needs of the patient. It may be to develop communication, cognitive, motor, emotional or social skills. Techniques include singing, listening, instrumental music composition, creative movement, and guided imagery.
Stimulating and playful music can help develop a child's ability to express emotion and rhythmic movement, speech and language skills. It can improve children's self-esteem if they engage in musical activities, which enhance success or accomplishment. Selected music can reduce stress, anxiety and pain, those preparing for surgery in hospitals or recovering from it. Moreover, music has been demonstrated as contributing to rapid wait gain in premature babies, earlier hospital discharge and improved cognitive function.
Those suffering from brain damage due to stroke, traumatic brain injury or other neurologic conditions have benefited significantly by music therapy. Entrainment may explain the benefit. Entrainment is the synchronization of movement with musical rhythm. As a consequence, practice with music as accompaniment can lead to improved motor skill ability and efficiency.
Music has proved to provide enjoyment, relaxation, relief from pain and a chance to socialize and remember delightful past events. The elderly are generally prone to anxiety and depression, especially those residing in nursing homes. It is of specific benefit to those with Alzheimer's disease. Music reduces their agitation and leads them to become more focused and responsive at least for a while. Studies have also shown that older people who play musical instruments were more physically and emotionally adept as they age than those who did not.
Autistic children have been shown to relate better and improve learning with…