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Science Finds Listening to Live Music Can Be Just as Effective as Medicine

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Science Finds Listening to Live Music Can Be Just as Effective as Medicine

The number of learned and creative people who extol the power of music is many. Everyone from Friedrich Nietzsche to Bob Marley has a pearl of wisdom to offer about the beauty and power of a great tune.

But it is not just patrons of the arts who believe this. A plethora of recent studies have demonstrated what everyone from Albert Einstein to Taylor Swift knows to be true: Music is excellent therapy.

A study released in the Music Therapy journal published by Oxford University in 1983 certainly confirmed this hypothesis.

The study included 50 patients who each suffered from cancer. The ages of the patients ranged between 17 and 69. During the study, some patients were given music to listen to through a listening device. Others were allowed to listen to live music.

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After the 25 minutes of allotted music, the patients took a questionnaire that profiled the state of their mood. This was compared with the profile taken before the patients listened to the music.

The patients who had listened to live music reported that they felt better physically and that their mood had improved. The results also suggested that therapists can use live music to help relieve the tension associated with serious illness. The patients also reported having more vigor than those who listened to recorded music.

Researchers stated that “The human element inherent in live music is believed to be important.”

Music is not just excellent therapy for cancer patients. Parkinson’s patients also saw improvements in their disease when they listened to music. Some patients have shown real improvements when they listened to music that had a steady beat. The improvements were both emotional and physical. According to recent research, some patients see improvements in walking and other physical activity when listening to music.

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Come again?

That’s right, there are people working to make the melodic dream of music therapy a reality.

The name of the group is The Sync Project. The Sync Project will pair a user’s music service, like Spotify, with a wearable body monitor, like Fitbit.

The site then tracks the changes in the user’s heat beat and other data. The data is compared with the user’s playlist. This should demonstrate how the music they listen to during concert tours physically interacts with their body. The group collects all of the data from users and then passes it on to scientists who employ it in their own research.

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The biggest roadblock for music therapy research is that the issue is very subjective. Just as how one person could love rap music but hate country and another person could love country and hate rap, music tastes and its effects are hard to pin down.

Ketki Karanam, the head of science innovation at The Sync Project, put it this way: “The evaluations of what music does in the body were based on subjective responses and lacked the objective real-time measurements of physiology.”

The platform is still small. It launched at South by Southwest in Austin earlier this year and is still in the testing phase. However, it hopes to roll out its program to the public at some point.

Meanwhile, current methods rely on established research to pinpoint the things that many people already experience when they listen to music. One researcher wrote that “music can evoke activity changes in the core brain regions that underlie emotion.”

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It may come as a shock that the lyrics to Pharrell’s hit song have scientific foundations. However, if you are one of those people who feels compelled to dance whenever it comes on the radio, this research may not be a surprise after all.

Featured photo credit: MercyMe via flickr.com

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