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Doctors Agree, Music Is Good For You

Monday, December 15th, 2008

              

It’s Holiday season and music fills the air, and our hearts, and our brains, and the malls.

Maybe you want to hear Little Drummer Boy piped into Target as you do the Bounty/dish soap run.

Or maybe you don’t. As Daniel J. Levitin outlines, “Unwanted music in particular is not waterboarding, but it is a kind of torture. Don’t forget, the American military drove Manuel Noriega from his compound by blasting him 24/7 with AC/DC and Van Halen.”

We will explore music again later this week, as we talk to Dave Wish, founder and director of Little Kids Rock. Really talk to him. Our first podcast.

But music truly does make us bright and brilliant and healthy and happy. Juliet Chung’s Wall Street Journal piece, Sound Research, summarizes recent, credible science.

  • A team at Stanford University School of Medicine used functional magnetic resonance imaging to view brain activity. Listeners’ noggins showed clear differences during and after having heard 18th-century symphonies. This study, which was published last year in Neuron suggests listening to music helps sustain focus.
  • A Finnish study published in Brain (I know, we all get these publications regularly) showed that “verbal memory and focused attention improved significantly more in stroke patients who listened to their favorite music several hours daily.”
  • Good for the brain. So what about blood? Music is good for that too. Researchers at University of Maryland School of Medicine found the “diameter of the average upper-arm blood vessel expanded by 26% when subjects listened to music they had previously selected for making them feel joyful.” What does this mean? Blood vessels expand when nitric oxide is being released, good for that bad cholesterol, LDL.
  • Mood/motivation? We all know how music can lift us from the blues. Kurt Vonnegut said, “Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God.” Powerful stuff, this music.
  • A team at Brunel University in England “found that certain music deemed motivational can enhance a recreational athlete’s endurance and increase pleasure while exercising.” Hear the theme track from ‘Rocky’?  ‘Chariots of Fire’? We all do.

Now to each his own on music choice. One person will spend the extra 10 minutes on the treadmill with AC/DC on their IPod. Another person will kick it to Chopin. Someone else rocks to barum-pa-pum-pum.

Whatever works for you. But at least now there’s lots of science to prove that it does work for us all…..on many different levels.

Image thanks to Gaetan Lee

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