How music helps prevent disease

Cometh the season, cometh the time for flu and the common cold. In 2008 research findings were reported in The Telegraph that claimed listening to music can boost the immune system and may even help fight off disease. 

The study was led by Dr Ronny Enk, a neurocognition expert at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. He stated "We think the pleasant state that can be induced by music leads to special physiological changes which eventually lead to stress reduction or direct immune enhancement. Stress reduction probably plays an important role, but the stress reducing effect seems to be different for various types of music." 

Dr Enk’s team tested 300 people, asking them to listen to a collection of random tones or 50 minutes of joyful, upbeat dance music. They reported that levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased significantly in those listening to the dance music compared to the random tones control group. Furthermore, the levels of the immune system's first line of defense (antibody immunoglobin A), were heightened in those listening to the upbeat music.

The team did not test whether variations occurred on these effects based on the type of music played to the respondents.  Dr Enk added: "We'd expect that different kinds of music might show different physiological and immunological effects. Not only the music itself is important but probably the personal appraisal of the listener will also be important. “

Another example of music research was published in 2005 when a Dr Frances le Roux used Bach's ‘Magnificat’ to change mood, boost the immune system and lower stress hormones in people undergoing physiotherapy for bronchitis and pneumonia. 

Forty patients (9 men and 31 women aged 40 to 75) participated in the study. The patients were randomly allocated to one of two groups. Group 1 received treatment with the selected background music and Group 2 received treatment in silence. Hormone levels and immune markers were measured by means of blood tests. This was coupled by the internationally-accepted Profile of Mood Scale (originated in San Diego, United States).

The group that received treatment with background music showed significant improvements in the endocrine system (hormonal changes), psychological state according to mood profiling, immune markers, and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. 

"The research affirms the two-way reciprocal action between the brain and the immune system," Le Roux was reported to comment. Furthermore, "music processed in the positive emotional centre of the brain not only inhibits negative emotions, but can also alter the brain's chemicals and hormones, so boosting the immune system.”

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