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‘Music as medicine’; Powerful influence of melody on health 

“Where words fail, music speaks” 



‘Music as medicine’; Powerful influence of melody on health 
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Isn’t it mesmerizing that we can all think of at least one song that, when we hear, triggers an emotional response? Certain songs have the ability to reminisce certain periods or events. Given the deep connection we have with music, it is perhaps unsurprising that numerous studies have shown it can benefit our mental health.

Using music as a tool for healing purposes is ancient. In fact, the practice can be traced back to the written works of Plato and his student, Aristotle—philosophers who critically studied matters of ethics science, politics, and more. 

Although we can’t be sure exactly when human beings began listening to music, however, scientists do believe that ‘listening to music benefits us individually and collectively’.  In 2009, archaeologists in southern Germany uncovered a flute carved from a vulture’s wing bone— indicating that people have been making music for over 40,000 years.

In general, musical therapy utilizes the power of music to interact with human emotions and affect wellbeing, although there are several different types recognized in the world today. 

What is Music Therapy?

In this medical practice, music is used to address numerous needs of individuals ranging from psychological, physical, and cognitive problems. This form of therapy includes composing, singing, and/or listening to music. Comparatively, receptive music therapy is when a person listens to or responds to music in approaches that include dance or the analysis of lyrics.  

Music therapy emerged as a formal profession after World War I and World War II when the influence of community musicians at hospitals was realized as a positive influence on suffering from both physical and emotional trauma. 

The therapy is used by hospice and palliative care board-certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress, to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders. 

Here’s what research tells us about the power of music to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Studies/ Researches 

As per some scientists, music may help alleviate stress by lowering the body’s cortisol levels – the hormone released in response to stress.

A 2008 study conducted by researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland found that stroke patients who listened to music for around 2 hours daily had better verbal memory and attention and a more positive mood than those who listened to an audio book or nothing at all.

A 2011 study by researchers from McGill University in Canada found that listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical.  

Another study conducted in 2013 found that not only did listening to music help reduce pain and anxiety for children but, it helped reduce stress.  

In March 2014, researchers from Denmark found music may be beneficial for patients with fibromyalgia – a disorder that causes muscle and joint pain and fatigue.

Earlier this year, a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, suggested listening to hip-hop music – particularly that from Kendrick Lamar – may help individuals to understand mental health disorders. This study is just one of many hailing music for its positive effects on pain.  

Another study found that infants remained calmer for longer when they were played music rather than spoken to. 

As the exact mechanism remains unclear, many researchers believe one reason that music appears to ease pain, is because it induces the release of opioids in the brain—the body’s natural pain relievers.

Brain-Music Connection

A group of Dartmouth researchers has learned that the brain's auditory cortex, the part that handles information from your ears, holds on to musical memories. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. It can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood.

However, based on the research to date, there is certainly evidence that we have much more than just an emotional connection with music. 

Hence, listening to music can be entertaining, and even make you healthier. Following are some of the highlights and benefits music has on health and well-being:

Elevates Mood 

Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. 

Improve Focus

Research has shown that music can enhance intelligence, improve mental focus, boost the immune system, strengthen self-esteem, and increase confidence. Music literally lifts your spirits.

Reduce Depression

Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, music can help pick you up - much like exercise.

Improves Endurance 

Listening to workout tracks can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough exercise session.

Improves Sleep Quality 

Insomnia is a serious problem that affects people of all age groups. While there are many approaches to treating this problem, research has demonstrated that listening to relaxing classical music can be a safe, effective, and affordable remedy.​

Improves Memory

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. 

From rock and folk to electronic and pop and everything in between, music is a powerful thing and aside from its entertainment value, it is known to have amazing positive effects on the brain. You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.

Because there is so much music out there, different music affects everybody uniquely.

 “Music is the universal language of mankind.” 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, famed nineteenth-century poet