Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the first-manifested and last-remaining abilities in a person. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness among people, thus helping in emotional and physical well-being. It can change mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions. Music also, invariably, evokes emotions and brings back old memories.
Not just this, research has shown that the impact of music is seen right from the fetal stage. When a fetus is exposed to music, its feeding rate is increased. Babies who are born to mothers who have listened to music during their pregnancy are seen to be more relaxed and less agitated after birth.
With so many benefits, is it any wonder that doctors are increasingly advising patients to listen to music, sing songs while the treatment is going on. It certainly helps in making the recovery of health faster and easier. But this doesn’t mean that a patient should go without medication. No, music doesn’t take the place of medicine, but it does aid in getting back to health sooner and better.
“That’s mainly because music uplifts the mood which in turn releases happy hormones and when a person is in happy state of mind the drugs work better,” says Prof D C Sharma of Govt PG College Noida (UP), a huge advocate of music therapy, and the one who has done extensive research on the subject using white rats. Though music helps all kinds of patients, it is particularly helpful for patients of dementia, autism, insomnia and depression wherein the medication helps little.
Dementia means a loss of cognitive functions of brain, related to thinking, perceiving, and learning. It can either be caused due to some disease or trauma. The dementia patients find it difficult to take decisions, make judgments, and communicate with others.
Music can treat dementia. This is because the auditory system of the brain is the first to fully function at 16 weeks, which means that a person is musically receptive long before anything else.
Music can soothe, stimulate and bring to mind long-forgotten memories. Research has shown that music, especially singing, has a great power to unlock memories and kick-start the grey matter and this feature is increasingly becoming a key in dementia care. Experts say that music reaches parts of the damaged brain in ways other forms of communication cannot.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Those who have autism show a heightened interest and response to music. So, music can be used to teach verbal and non-verbal communication skills to autism patients. Those who work with autistic children say that these children show more emotional expression and social engagement during music therapy sessions than in sessions without music.
Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep. Long-term insomnia can make a person feel tired and depressed as such a person cannot pay attention to his work, or studies as his memory is compromised. Severe insomnia can result in neuro-chemical change that may also cause depression and anxiety.
Music is known to act upon the central nervous system and has anti-anxiety and relaxing effects. It also impacts the production of compounds like opioids, which have pain-relieving and sedative qualities, as well as oxytocin, which plays a part in improving sleep. In simple words music soothes mind and relaxes the brain.
It is a mood disorder and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, and the way one feels about oneself. Depressed people get withdrawn into shell and feel no need to communicate with others. Music helps fight depression as it increases responsiveness to anti-depressant medications. Listening to music also leads to reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.
Listening to soothing music helps patients relax so they’re better able to let go of feelings that are troubling them. Also sharing a musical experience with a therapist, playing or listening, helps a patient feel more comfortable discussing his problems and feelings. Playing an instrument also allows a depressed person to express himself non-verbally when he can’t do so verbally.