Wednesday Bubble: Music as medicine

Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in aging | 3 comments

Source of Music


I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like music. Not. A. Single. Person. Do you?

Researchers say that not only is music “one of the small set of human cultural universals” but, that the concept of music as medicine has roots that extend deep into human history. Today? Music is used to soothe babies, enhance concentration in surgical arenas, improve attention among workers, promote stamina in athletes (and exercisers), and may be the ultimate drug of choice to regulate mood and arousal.

There is also a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests that musics that music can actually promote health. In fact, some studies show that pleasurable music, when self-selected, was able to induce ‘chills down the spine’ as well as actually alter the parts of the brain that are connected to reward and reinforcement. Listening to music has also been shown to activate parts of the brain that regulate emotional and cognitive functioning and even the part of the nervous system that affects heart rate, breathing, digestion and sexual arousal. It may also positively affect the hippocampus, which plays a role in facilitating and inhibiting defensive behaviour when we become stressed. Better yet, music may actually deactivate the mama of stress hormones – cortisol.

However, not only does choice influence the body’s response to music but it appears that personality may also play a role in its effects. Outgoing in nature? Background music may distract you less than your introverted peers when focusing on a particular task.

Still, experts haven’t quite teased out the ‘how,’ other than to show through imaging studies that the notes in our ears appear to initiate brain responses that are reflexive, such as heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature and muscle tension. Pay attention the next time you put on that track: dance music will quicken heart rate and breathing while a slow groove will likely produce decreases in the same — even among infants. And in fact, the brainstem may actually fire synchronously with tempo.

And what about immunity? Can music help or hinder that as well, particularly as people age? Researchers point out that “given that music enhances mood and reduces stress,” it may also improve immune function and mitigate the negative effects of age and stress. This appears to work whether it’s a group driven activity (like drumming or group singing) or passive listening (e.g. during surgery).

Researchers still claim that the proof is in the pudding and scientifically rigorous studies are needed to determine once and for all if music is indeed, medicine. To met, evidence or not, I know when it makes me feel good and when it does the opposite. I know what I like to listen to when I want to relax. And I know what I want to put on rotation when I exercise or wish to dance around the house.

“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

My medicine? Music. What about you?





  1. 4-25-2013

    Amen! Music is the window of the soul. Good vibrations ( like from a guitar) is not just an expression, it is a healing thing to me too,

  2. 4-25-2013

    Here, here! Music does wonders in bringing down my stress levels. An all time favorite: Getz/Gilberto – Bossa nova at its finest! Thanks for another great post, Liz.

    • 4-25-2013

      @SusieHadas Welcome back Susie! 😉

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