we talk of medicine, what comes into our minds is the smell of spirit in the
hospital corridors, or the site of a patient being rushed into a theatre, or
the long prescription list of drugs the doctor gives when we are in pain. On
the other hand when we talk of music and art, our mind fills up with joyous
colours and melodies. We start remembering our favorite tunes and humming them.
Can music and medicine be blended to compliment each other? Even though these
are two extremes, yes they can be blended to compliment each other!
is the science or practice of diagnosis, treatment, prevention and management
of diseases and other damages to body and mind. Medicine has evolved from the
early herbal concotions during stone age to the Hippocrates’ era and now to
modern medicine and technology. The evolution has greatly impacted the Human
society. Significant improvements have been made from time to time. Some of the
most prominent developments have been in introduction and innovation of
vaccines, artificial organs for transplant, machinery which can support lives
and make procedures easy and less invasive. As humans, feelngs and emotions
contribute a great deal in dealing with pain. Music has been known to make one
feel relaxed. However, the use of music as part of therapy has not been a common
practice in hospital setups.
is an art of sound whereby the emotions, ideas and feelings are expressed in
significant form with melody, rhythm and harmony. Music has been used as a tool
for healing back from the time of Aristotle and Plato 1.
There is documentation to the effect that several cultural and religious groups
used music to heal patients from illnesses, and also to rid the patients from
‘evil spirits’ 2.
realignments are one of the most “hospital-visit” intensive procedures I have
ever gone through but there was always soft music being played in the
background which diverted my attention. This brought a thought into my mind.
Why don’t medical institutes and hospitals play soft music in treatment rooms,
wards as well as the theatre. It would help the patients to feel
psychologically relaxed and this is already a step closer to healing. A study
conducted at Orebro University in Sweden which provided music interventions
prior and after coronary angiography and percutaneous coronary intervention.
This was to identify the effects of music on anxiety, angina, pain, relaxation,
and comfort during the procedures. Overally, the outcome was that the feeling
of relaxation among patients was high. 3.
This tells us that the soothing environment can assist patients to feel relaxed
in the theatres and before any major or minor procedures.
Music has been proven to have a great impact
on cells – the smallest living unit of an organism. Damaged cells begin healing
and flourishing. Hence preventing further damage. A human being has a brain of
his own which identifies sound and interpretes it, allowing it to affect his
mood, feelings, emotions. The same way a human cell is as good as a complete
organism, able to identify sound and rhythm and react to it. This has been
identified in children with cancer in The
Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto,
Canada. The children showed great improvement in mood, play performance and
also hematological and oncological cells 4.
As an aspiring medical scientist, it would be interesting to study the
reactions that different kind of music would elicit from pathogenic microbes!
the largest part of the brain, is responsible for interpreting what we hear, as
well as enhancing our reasoning, emotions, feelings, thoughts. This makes us
understand why soothing sound in the form of music enhances our emotional
status so much. During an emotional breakdown, people often resort to music to
calm their nerves. This is one great lesson my Indian ancestry has taught me.
This also takes us to why our emotional response to unpleasant music is bad 5.
Unpleasant music such as sound from the clubs can also have adverse effects
such as hearing difficulties or even hearing loss. These effects are noticed in
urban areas with clubs playing loud music. An individual exposed to such an
environment eventually develops adverse effects 6.
Despite of having beneficial effects of music, it has also been identified that
music may have different effects on different people, considering the age,
gender, mood, type of music and other variables. Various types of music such as
classical, folk, hymns and praises have different effects. Music on its own is
not an emotion. Emotional responses are as a result of learning the music in
addition to the music itself. Moreover, both women and men respond to music
similarly. It is therefore safe to say that women are not more emotional than
men, as has been the myth 7.
the field of psychiatry, music has been employed as a therapy to treat
depression. Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) has been put into place to treat
neurological patients. This has gone upto an extent of enhancing speech
recovery which may have been lost due to an emotional trauma, such as death of
a close one or a terrifying incident. In medical psychology, music is used as a
tool to understand one’s character and thought patterns. The type of music one
prefers to listen to says a lot about their character. This guides the
psychologist on which approach to take to help the patient 8.
A patient who is undergoing stigma and is having low self esteem due to factors
such as having HIV can be assisted to manage himself by music therapy.
all, it is important to remember our Creator. There is a common trend of
worship in most religious backgrounds whereby hymns and praises are sung to the
Lord. At the same time, most religions believe that the religious songs spread
peace and good healing vibes which assist people to come out of their state of
anxiety, depression, irritation, anger and have a peaceful mind filled with
soothing tunes from the Prayers. This already proves that music as a therapy
begun back in history and has been bettering itself with time. The famous story
in the Old Testament of young David, the Israelite (born around 1037 BC),
playing the lyre for King Saul, who was tormented by an evil spirit (chronic
depression, melancholy), must be mentioned here. Why? Because David was not
concerned with communicating with the gods or spirits to purge King Saul of his
illness; rather David was playing music for King Saul in an attentive, empathic
manner. In so doing, David is often considered the first music therapist 9.
have been conducted to determine the effects of music on plants and animals. It
has been identified that music has similar positive effects on the plants and
animals as in humans. Dr. Creath and Dr. Schwartz published an article in which
they presented a study done on germinating okra and zuchini seeds. Music and
healing sounds were used on the seeds everyday for 15-20 minutes and the seeds
sprouted faster compared to the controls10.
This was also reflected in another study where the exposure of 6 species of
plants to music led to release of high content of indoleacetic acid. IAA plays
a role in the development of root and shoot in a plant11.
domesticated animals also benefit a lot from the therapy of music. Kenneled dogs
are one of the most kept pets. However, there are concerns about their
well-being. Inanimate auditory stimulation such as soothing music has proven to
calm the dogs as well as reduce their anxiety and depression of being alone12.
Dr Snowdon and Dr. Teie studied the affective responses in tamarins elicited by
music. The tamarins elicited a calmer behaviour13.
conclusion, having glimpsed at the benefits of music, it is important to
impregnate music as a main therapy to all patients alongside the other procedures
and treatment plans. Music can also be used for agricultural and veterinary
purposes as a therapy. This can be done by keeping in mind the ethical
considerations and therefore following the right channel to employ this
therapy. Music can be referred as the colour of the ears. Just the way
different colours make what we see beautiful, different sounds and melodies
make what we hear beautiful.
1 Gouk, “Sister Disciplines? Music and Medicine in
2 Carroll, “171 HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MUSIC THERAPY: A
BRIEF OVERVIEW Dr. Debbie Carroll 32.”
3 Nilsson et al., “The Effect of Music Intervention in
Relation to Gender during Coronary Angiographic Procedures?: A Randomized
4 Barrera, Rykov, and Doyle, “THE EFFECTS OF INTERACTIVE
MUSIC THERAPY ON HOSPITALIZED CHILDREN WITH CANCER?: A PILOT STUDY.”
5 Blood et al., “Emotional Responses to Pleasant and
Unpleasant Music Correlate with Activity in Paralimbic Brain Regions.”
6 Gunderson, Moline, and Catalano, “Risks of Developing
Noise?induced Hearing Loss in Employees of Urban Music Clubs.”
7 Sopchak, “Individual Differences in Responses to
Different Types of Music, in Relation to Sex, Mood, and Other Variables.”
8 Spintge and Loewy, “Music and Medicine.”
9 Carroll, “171 HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MUSIC THERAPY: A
BRIEF OVERVIEW Dr. Debbie Carroll 32.”
10 Creath and Schwartz, “Measuring Effects of Music,
Noise, and Healing Energy Using a Seed Germination Bioassay.”
11 Zhu, Jiang, and Shen, “Effects of Music Acoustic
Frequency on Indoleacetic Acid in Plants.”
12 Wells, “A Review of Environmental Enrichment for
Kennelled Dogs, Canis Familiaris.”
13 Snowdon and Teie, “Affective Responses in Tamarins
Elicited by Species-Specific Music.”