Music as Medicine: Harmonies That Heal


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Music is medicine. It can wake up the brain, calm our hearts, and ease our fears. In fact, from Alzheimer’s to heart disease, research is proving that music can be as powerful as some medications to help heal what ails us. Ivanhoe has the details.

Watch as the sound of Swan Lake transports Marta Gonzalez, 71 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, back to a time when she was the prima ballerina.

Carol Rosenstein, Founder & Executive Director of Music Mends Minds Inc. uses music to bring back lost memories.

“Some of them have just been sitting like stone and they hear a familiar melody, and they start to open their eyes and … vocalize, and tap, and snap,” shared Rosenstein.

Music storage cells in our brain do not succumb to the disease process.

And music doesn’t just impact our brain. A review of 23 studies, covering 15 hundred patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety in heart disease patients. And a Harvard study proved cardiac patients who listened to music recovered from heart attack and stroke faster.

“Somehow the music releases the elixirs that allow us to respond,” continued Rosenstein.

A study out of UC Irvine found healthy adults age 60 to 85 without previous musical experience improved their processing speed and memory after just three months of weekly 30 minute piano lessons and three hours a week of practice. Whereas the control group showed no changes.

And Stanford University conducted a study with 30 depressed people over 80 and found those who participated in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed, and had higher self-esteem.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.


BACKGROUND: Music has been known to improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and facilitate opportunities for emotional expression. Research suggests that music can benefit both physical and mental health in numerous ways. Music allows the blood to flow more easily when it is played. It can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease stress levels, and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine to help regulate our mood. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management. It has also been shown to relieve some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.


THE BENEFITS OF MUSIC: Doctors at Johns Hopkins recommend listening to music to help stimulate the brain. In one study, people were more motivated to learn when they expected to listen to a song as their reward. Music also has a positive effect on the ability to memorize. Researchers gave people tasks that required them to read and then recall short lists of words. Those who were listening to classical music outperformed those who worked in silence or with white noise. Neurological researchers have found that listening to music triggers the release of several neurochemicals that play a role in brain function and mental health. Neurochemicals such as dopamine, stress hormones like cortisol, serotonin and other hormones related to immunity, and oxytocin, a chemical that fosters the ability to connect to others.


NEW RESEARCH IN MUSIC AND HEALTH: The University of Ottawa Music and Health Research Institute (MHRI) is studying how musical intervention can affect health. The plan is to develop the knowledge, innovative therapeutic practices, and solutions that can contribute to improving the health of populations. They will roll out interdisciplinary, participatory, and action-based research initiatives to measure how learning and practicing music can affect children with hearing loss, seniors with cognitive and motor impairments, as well as people suffering from mental health problems. One initiative will advance research into the factors involved in maintaining the well-being, autonomy, and health of seniors. “We particularly look forward to our first project, which focuses on music and aging, and will see the establishment of a music and mental health research clinic, which will be designed by researchers, clinicians, program leaders, and people with lived expertise, and will be connected to our cutting-edge technological platforms, including our Brain Imaging Centre,” says Florence Dzierszinski, president of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Mental Health Research at The Royal.


* For More Information, Contact:

Carol Rosenstein

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