Music matters

By | Science & Technology
Music therapy for autistic children.Credit@sunnysidemusic.com

Research into music therapy may have revealed a healing effect in many conditions which now may be extensively verified.

How the elements of music may influence humans’ emotional states and why these effects occur has been the focus of music psychology and humankind for thousands of years. The fact it endures as an art form suggests it to be a unique and essential part of being human, with a role in many cultural activities including celebrations, religious events, and many memorable stages of an individual’s life. Many individuals seem to have an inherent desire to create or listen to music, which may be both complex and inexplicable. With the effects music may have on the emotions being extensively studied, results imply individuals may also have an unconscious awareness of how it might relieve the emotions and maintain productive health. Creation of music in groups, bands or orchestras may be a shared human experience and may be the result of a fundamental need.

How sound perception influences the brain and functioning may have been the aim of many fields of science. A common understanding suggests sound waves reach the ear and then transduced into electrical signals the brain is able to discern. Some research even suggests sounds above the audible range affect the electrical activity of the brain. The distinct response of the brain to emotional aspects of perceived music may have been located in the striatum region. Dopamine release in this area may be highest in relation to peak emotional arousal generated when listening to the most affective parts of music. The anticipation of a reward from music correlates with activity in the caudate whilst the nucleus accumbens activates more in response to peak emotional sequences of music. This system may be activated when an individual experiences pleasurable feelings of being rewarded, in relation to any event. Moreover, how an individual reacts emotionally to music may be determined by culturally specific early life musical experiences and memory.

The awareness and recognition of the advantage of music effects may have stimulated the development of music therapy. The diverse research into music therapy aimed to discover the effects of music participation and the passive listening influence upon certain conditions. The goal of it through past knowledge aims to reduce adverse reactions to life events and relieve certain medical conditions. Music therapists support the reduction of the intensity and duration of pain, and this may lead to the minimisation of medication use. The method may assist children in the alleviation of symptoms in childhood cancer and research even suggests the therapy may be efficacious for premature babies, irrelevant of gestational age indicating an inherent biological response to music.

Music therapy may be beneficial to coronary heart conditions, a study showed it achieved this by relaxing the individual, leading to reduced incidence of cardiac complications in comparison to individuals in a control group; this being assessed by heart rates and body temperatures. This possibly demonstrates the therapeutic benefit may be life saving.

The biggest effects of music therapy seem to be demonstrated in conditions with a significant cognitive aspect. A review of 21 studies by Koger and colleagues revealed how music therapy may be effective in the treatment of dementia, the effect of the therapy being highly significant. The review may highlight how music itself may be the most important factor in the alleviation of dementia. Furthermore, individuals with concurrent aphasia show improvement with speech when singing is used as a therapy, this may be because speaking and singing use opposite sides of the brain.

Conditions like Parkinson’s consisting of both a cognitive and motor element may also be relieved with music therapy, appreciable motor improvements might be seen and an increase in an individual’s wellbeing.

Music may be an effective and genuinely therapeutic art form with evidence of relief in many conditions, including challenging life disrupting conditions. The research suggests humans possess many strategies which may benefit physical and mental health and the ability to create music may be one of these.

How might this music method be used in everyday home care?

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