Medical News Today last November featured a review of studies relating to music and health. A 2011 study for example, 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, making it a feasible treatment for depression.
A 2015 study led by Brunel University in the UK suggested music may reduce pain and anxiety for patients who have undergone surgery. Analyzing 72 randomized controlled trials involving more than 7,000 patients who received surgery, researchers found those who were played music after their procedure reported feeling less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music, and they were also less likely to need pain medication.
This effect was even stronger for patients who got to choose the music they listened to. Study leader Dr. Catharine Meads told Medical News Today: “If music was a drug, it would be marketable. Music is a noninvasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.”
In March 2014, researchers from Denmark found music may be beneficial for patients with fibromyalgia. Listening to calm, relaxing, self-chosen music “reduced pain and increased functional mobility significantly” among 22 patients with fibromyalgia, according to the investigators.
A 2013 study found that not only did listening to music help reduce pain and anxiety for children at the UK’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, it helped reduce stress – independent of social factors.
And singing may benefit babies better than talking to them. Published in the journal Infancy, a study by the Center for Research on Brain, Music and Language at the University of Montreal in Canada, found that when infants listened to music, they remained calm for significantly longer than when they listened to speech – even when the speech was baby talk.
In the first experiment, while the infants were calm, the researchers either spoke to them directly using baby talk or adult speech, played them recorded baby talk or adult speech, or played them recorded songs by a Turkish singer that they had never heard before.
“The performer sang Turkish play songs, not Western ones. This is an important point as studies have shown that the songs we sing to infants have a specific range of tones and rhythms,” explains study author Mariève Corbeil.
The researchers found that when listening to the Turkish music, the infants remained calm for approximately 9 minutes, while they only stayed calm for around 4 minutes when listening to speech. According to the researchers, it is the rhythm of songs that appeal to infants rather than the words.
In the realm of education, according to Music and Learning author Chris Brewer, music can stabilize mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned. Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Learning vocabulary, memorizing facts or reading to this music is highly effective.