Music therapy's mission is to use music on a person to help physiologic, psychologic, and emotional assimilation of the person during treatment of an illness or disease.
A study conducted in 1929 showed that volume, pitch, melody, rhythm, and genre all affected blood pressure. The biggest consequence on blood pressure was directly correlated to the listener's interest and understanding of the music. (1)
Another study, with subjects being allowed to choose their own selection of music, gave an account of sending "shivers down a person's spine." The study further showed that the music modulated cerebral blood flow to the areas of the brain regulating reward, motivation, emotion, and arousal. These results connect music with survival related stimuli because of the similar pattern of brain circuitry involved in pleasure and reward. (2) Further findings of music therapy include the reduction of pain after gynecological surgery (3) and the reduction of unfavorable effects of cancer treatments, symptom severity, and cancer pain. (4)
Although, recently music has been used as an entrainment technique for pain reduction or altering mood state in a range of settings. The term entrainment refers to any stimuli that starts with the current mood state the person is in and then moves the person in a more positive, gratifying direction. For example anxiety would be addressed by first playing erratic, fast, off-pitch music. Then the music would move slowly into a more placid, melodic, slower paced mode possibly reducing the patient's anxiety. Music and imagery, in itself or in combination, have been used to bring about a change in mood states, a lessened degree of acute or chronic pain and modulate biochemical attributes, such as plasma B-endorphin levels. (5)
My next post will use the Rider Study of Entrainment Music and Pain Reduction as an example how music therapy might work and benefit mood states, performance, pre and perioperative, critical, and normal care periods for hospitalized patients.
1. Vincent S., Thompson J. The Effects of Music Upon the Human Blood Pressure. Lancet. (1929):534
2. Blood A., Zatorre R. Intensely Pleasurable Responses to Music Correlate with Activity in Brain Regions Implicated in Reward and Emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 98(20). (2001):1818
3. Good M. et al. Relaxation and Music reduce pain after Gynecologic Surgery. Pain Manage Nurs 3(2). (2002):61
3. Kerkvliet G. Music Therapy May Help Control Cancer Pain. J Natl Cancer Inst 82(5). (1990):350
4. Abrams B. Music, Cancer, and Immunity. J Oncol Nurs 5(5). (2001):222
5. McKineey C., et al. The Effect of Selected Classical Music and Spontaneous Imagery on Plasma B-Endorphin. J Behav Med 20(1). (1997):85
5. Standley J. Music Research in Medical/Dental Treatment: Meta-analysis and Clinical Applications. J Music Ther 23(2). (1986):56