Use Music to Fine Tune Your Health; How Rhythms Alter Our Brain Chemistry to Boost Mood, Energy and Immunity

By Wrottesley, Catriona | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 6, 2000 | Go to article overview

Use Music to Fine Tune Your Health; How Rhythms Alter Our Brain Chemistry to Boost Mood, Energy and Immunity


Wrottesley, Catriona, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


SHAKESPEARE was only telling half the story about the power of music when, in Twelfth Night, he wrote about it being the food of love.

In today's frenetic world, it could also be described as the food of health - profoundly affects our moods and physical well-being.

Whether it's supermarket music that washes over our heads, Classic FM on the car radio, garage music in the nightclub, or children banging out tunes on the piano, music affects the way we feel.

And provided we choose our music carefully, we can alter our brain chemistry to boost our moods, our immune system and our energy levels.

Music therapist Chris Achenbach explained: "Music is a powerful medium to which almost all of us respond in some way. It can produce both psychological and physiological changes in us.

"Consider, for example, the difference between how you feel when listening to music that is fast and exciting, or calm and soothing.

"Music can be employed as a tool to help people relax, assist pain relief and even shop for different goods in supermarkets.

"It seems the human race evolved the ability to appreciate sound as music at a very early stage.

"Such appreciation is closely linked with other ways in which we use sound - a mother croons to a new-born child, soldiers chant while they march, workmen set up a rhythm with picks as they dig and children sing as they play."

Dr Sherman Vander Ark, Professor of Music at the University of Akron, Ohio, has researched the physiological benefits of music.

He has discovered that listening to classical music can change the neural chemistry of the blood, which directly improves our feelings of well-being - as well as our ability to learn.

He explained: "The limbic system, which is the emotional part of the brain, undergoes three significant chemical changes. Firstly, the level of cortisol, which is important for emotional well- being, learning and proper thinking, is better regulated.

"Too much cortisol turns off the immune system but not enough causes depression, so getting the balance right is vital. Music is very helpful in achieving that balance.

"Secondly, we've found that norepinephrine, a natural morphine which makes you feel good, goes up by as much as 30 per cent. Finally, endorphins, which also have a feel-good effect, are enhanced."

Cathie Guzzetta, director of the Holistic Nursing Consultants, Bethesda, Maryland, and author of Music Therapy: Nursing The Music Of The Soul, says soothing or stimulating music has been linked to the hemispheric functioning of the brain, which affects how we deal with information.

Whereas left-brain functioning involves the rational, analytical and logical forms of information processing, right-brain functioning deals with intuitive, creative and imaging forms

She said: "Music may activate the flow of stored memory material across the corpus collosum so the right and left hemispheres work in harmony, rather than in conflict."

Music may also heal physical ailments, she says.

Cathie says: "It is possible that musical vibrations that are in tune with our fundamental vibratory pattern could have a profound healing effect on the entire human body and mind, affecting changes in emotions and in organs, enzymes, hormones, cells and atoms."

Chris Achenbarch points out that there are many recorded instances of music alleviating symptoms and healing illness.

He said: "For the last 50 years, music therapy has been developed as a means of using the power of music to help others, especially those who, for a variety of reasons - including brain injury, learning disability, autism or depression - find normal communication difficult or impossible. …

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