×
  • ×

    Aural Drugs

    Music has long been used for religious, recreational, and
    marketing purposes. Now, the medical industry is investigating
    music’s powers over the mind and body as hospitals experiment with
    it in therapy programs. Cary Stemle of
    The Louisville Eccentric Observer writes
    of New York’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital, where patients often are
    serenaded by visiting Juilliard students and have access to a
    listening library. When Robert Lerman, a pathologist from Kentucky,
    received cancer treatments at Sloan-Kettering his wife took note of
    its musical approach. Though Robert did not survive, his wife was
    inspired to instigate a similar program at the Norton Audubon
    Hospital where he had worked. Now the Kentucky hospital has its own
    music library and full-time music therapist who carts instruments
    from room to room, playing songs for each patient and unearthing
    strong emotional responses. Encouraged by Norton Audubon’s shorter
    patient stays and lowered costs, other hospitals in the area are
    starting up their own music therapy programs.

    Researchers have been tracking music’s healing powers and coming
    up with some interesting findings. Pallab Ghosh reports for
    BBC News that a study by the Chelsea and
    Westminster Hospital in London showed that patients recovered
    faster and with fewer drugs when live music was a part of their
    medical regimen. ‘The physiological benefits have been measured.
    Music reduces blood pressure, the heart rate, and hormones related
    to stress,’ explained Dr. Rosalia Staricoff, administrator of the
    study.

    In the July/August issue of
    Science & Theology News (article not
    available online), Heather Wax describes rhythm’s ability to affect
    brainwaves. Studies show that brain waves adjust to match tempo
    when participants listen to rhythms attentively, enabling music to
    regulate mental states much like medications do. An experiment at
    the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that
    regular sessions of rhythmic light and sound stimulation increased
    focus and IQ scores among boys with Attention Deficit Disorder and
    reduced behavioral problems. A University of Washington study
    showed that similar exposure increased the brain’s blood flow and
    improved cognitive functioning in the elderly. Of course, many of
    us already use beats to alter our moods: A dose of techno can
    energize when deadlines loom and jazz can keep insanity at bay in
    the car with kids. The day may come, though, when we think of music
    as another drug — administered aurally.

    Go There>>
    Therapy of Note: A spoonful of music helps the
    medicine go down, so to speak

    Go There Too>>
    Music ‘Aids the Healing Process’

    Related Links:
    Music Therapy May Help Ease Pain
    American
    Music Therapy Association

    Related Links From the Utne Archive:

    Oruj Guvenc

    Listening
    Cure

    Comments? Story tips?
    Write a letter to the editor

    Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne
    magazine

    Published on Jul 1, 2006

    UTNE

    In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.