Will music ever be prescribed as a remedy to treat or even cure chronic disease? Perhaps, and recent research indicates we may be closer to the musical cure than previously thought imaginable.
We all recognize music has a salutary effect. Who hasn’t used a tune to relax, focus, or improve their mood? Our understanding of music is emerging. The wheat is separating from the chaff as we move beyond pseudoscientific claims of music effects, to clinical trials that demonstrate the benefits the right musical prescription may hold.
My colleague and dear friend Vera Brandes, is director of the research program in music and medicine at the Paracelsus Private Medical University in Salzburg, Austria. Vera has been principal in the charge to apply real scientific methods to music research. Today her efforts are featured in an article in The New York Times Composing Concertos In the Key of RX.
In a pilot study, which in 2008 received a citation at the annual scientific meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Baltimore, Ms. Brandes and international associates investigated the effects of music on patients suffering from hypertension for which no organic cause can be found.
“Conventionally hypertensive patients are treated with beta blockers, which suppress In their symptoms,” Ms. Brandes said. “Music can address the psychosomatic root causes.”
According to her study, listening to a specially designed music program for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for four weeks, patients experienced clinically significant improvements in heart-rate variability, a major indicator of autonomous nervous function. In her next study Ms. Brandes will subject these findings to a full-fledged clinical trial.
The evidence that music is good for us will continue to expand and one day in the not so distant future you may have a music prescription written for you. Until then, keep listening and know music is good for more than your soul.
Addendum- Having read a comment on twitter and FriendFeed about this post let me be clear. MUSIC WORKS!!! I have spent 15 years researching and developing psychoacoustically based music programs. This post, and the article it is about is highlighting the fact that music research has reached a new level entirely!