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The Brain under Regional and General Anesthesia: Music’s Effect

July 30th, 2016 · No Comments · music and the brain

How does the brain under anesthesia act?  And can music still have a positive effect on the brain?  I talk to lots and lots of people daily and many want to understand how music can have a positive impact on someone having surgery.  You’ve heard me say many times, that the brain is the last unexplored frontier.

First we must understand that when you are under general anesthesia, you are not actually asleep, although the doctor may say that he is “putting you to sleep.”  The reality is that the anesthesiologist is putting you into a coma; one from which you can be fairly easily awakened.  If you were actually sleeping, you would definitely wake up when the cutting started!  So what is going on in the brain when the patient is in this induced coma?

I did some research on this interesting and important question, and here’s what I found:  Dr. Ulrica Nilsson is a PhD, certified registered nurse anesthetist, CRNA.  She is an authority on the use of music during surgery, and here is what she said:

Registrations through EEG have shown that music can decrease the bioelectrical activity in the brain from predominant beta waves to alpha and theta waves, which can have consequences for reduction of anxiety, tension and sleeplessness (Shawn 1999). The mechanism of the pain reducing effect of music has been explained by the gate control theory, which suggests that the transmission of potentially painful impulses can be modulated by a “cellular gating mechanism” found in the spinal cord (Melzack 1973, Whipple & Glynn 1992). Alternatively the beneficial effects may be a result of distraction through cognitive coping strategies by competing stimuli that reduce pain perception (Fernandes & Turk 1989). Music can also act as a distracting agent to refocus the attention from negative stimuli causing the stress, to something that is pleasant; it occupies one’s mind with something familiar, soothing and preferred (Siegele 1974, McCaffery 1992, Mok & Wong 2003), allowing people to escape to “their own world”.

Nilsson et al (2001 and 2003b) have shown that patients which have been exposed to soft relaxing music intraoperatively had significantly lower pain scores on the first day of surgery compared with the control group patients. Intraoperative music can also lead to less postoperative fatigue and that patients became mobile earlier i.e. time to sit after surgery, (Nilsson et al 2001).

Because this research is at least 15 years old (although still valid), I refer you to the study that was done on our Surgical Serenity Solutions headphones and music!  The results indicate that patients under general anesthesia still respond to music very positively and have a 20% less perception of pain.  In the scientific world, that is huge.  To read this study go HERE.

To purchase the Surgical Serenity Headphones or download, go HERE.


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