The Brain and Music

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More research on music and the brain

September 10th, 2008 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Immunity, too, can benefit. South African researchers have successfully used Bach’s Magnificat to benefit mood, boost the immune system and lower stress hormones in people undergoing physiotherapy for infectious lung disease.

Regularly listening can also lower high blood pressure. Patients who listened to 25 minute of music a day for four weeks lowered their blood pressure, while a control group who were played no music saw no change in their condition. After four weeks, the average drop for the music group in systolic blood pressure was 11.8 mmHg and for diastolic, 4.7 mmHg. There were no significant changes in the control group. “Music therapy may be an alternative for hypertension treatment,” say the researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Some research suggests that not all music is effective. Tune and tempo have been found to be more important than melody, rhythm, harmony or timbre. Quick, pulsating rhythms and vigorous music have been shown to have a counter effect, triggering negative emotions.

So how exactly does the body derive health benefits from music? At one level, it may work simply as a distraction, taking the mind off the pain. When healthy people are exposed to experimental pain, as they were in research at Glasgow Caledonian University, they had greater tolerance to it when they were listening to their favourite music.

But distraction is not the only way in which symptoms are eased. One Finnish stroke-recovery study found that music is processed and handled in different parts of the brain, and one suggestion is that by holding the patient’s attention, it stimulates nerve cells which go on to bypass the region damaged by the stroke.

One theory is that it works through the emotion circuitry of the brain, which has an effect on the production of key hormones, which in turn impact on body functions, from the repair of nerves to pain relief.


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