Monday, June 10, 2013

Neurological Journal reports benefits of music to mental and physical health

The Neurological Foundation of New Zealand's newsletter has arrived and contains the following article, which was reprinted from Trends in Cognitive Sciences

It was written by professor Daniel Levintin, who is the James McGill professor of phsychology and behavioural neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with additional appointments in music theory, computer science, and education.

It is a meta-study, a distillation of 400 research papers in the neurochemistry of music, which found that music can improve the function of the body's immune system and reduce levels of stress.

Here is the article:

Research by Professor Daniel Levitin demonstrates that listening to music is more successful than prescription drugs in decreasing a person's anxiety before undergoing surgery. A report from 2011 indicated that anxiety in cancer patients can be reduced by music. Prof Levitin explained: 'We've found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics. But even more importantly we were able to document the neuro-chemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains:management of mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding'

Results showed that music increases an antibody that plays an important role in immunity of the mucous system, known as immunoglobin A, as well as in natural killer cell counts, the cells that attack germs and bacteria invading the body. Listening to, and playing (singing) music can alos lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), according to Prof Levitin and Dr Mona Lisa Chanda, his post-graduate research fellow.

Previous research in the British Journal of Psychiatry  demonstrated that music therapy when combined with standard care, is a successful treatment for depression.

The experts reccommend a number of areas for later trials in the field. For example, identifying the relationship between the "love drug" oxytoxin, group affiliation, and music. They suggested administering naltrexone (and opioid antagonist drug used when a person is having alcohol  withdrawal) to determine whether musical pleasure is encouraged by the same chemical systems in the brain activated by other types of pleasure, such as food.

a 2011 study suggested that thrilling music is similar to food and sex - more pleasure and anticipation means moire dopamine. The authors also urged for studies "in which patients are randomly assigned to musical intervention or a rigorously matched control condition in post-operative or chronic pain trials" They poinetd out that proper controls include TV, comedy recordings, audio books or films. Additional the scientists developed an outline for future experiements with questions including:
  • What are the different effects, if any of playing (singing) music compared to listening to music?
  • Are the positive effects of music a result of mood induction, distraction, feelings of bonding/support, or other factors?
  • What stimuli can be used as a foundation o comparison to match music along dimensions of arousal, attractiveness or lack thereof, engagement, and mood induction?
  • What role does "the love drug" (oxytoxin) play in mediating music experiences?
  • Are certain people ore likely to experience a positive impact form music than others? If so, what individual differences, such as personality traits, genetic, or biological factors, aid the success of music interventions?

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