Music and Sound
I did not initially consider music as a factor in physical health. From our own families experience music played a role in calming our son when he was agitated. Information related to serotonin, neurotransmitters and other aspects of mental health and brain functioning being connected to sound and music just kept appearing. On this page I have organized the range of work I've so far discovered into 2 categories : "Books and Articles" covering written literature and "Related Therapies and Research" which generally focuses on facilities practically incorporating sound and/or music.
Books and Articles
Of course Oliver Sachs recognized something of this early on writing his book" Musicopholia" recounting experiences over his career involving music. This struck such a cord that a documentary was produced for PBS called Musical Minds. A transcript or opportunity to purchase the DVD is available through PBS.
In June 2019 an article appeared in an email from GreenMedInfo entitled Testing a 2500 Year Old Hypothesis written by John Stuart Reid. This article is an overview of his exploration of the use of music in healing as well as research he has conducted on the impact of music on red blood cells. It is encouraging to find research showing data related to observed results. He describes a shift in the view of the role of music from music as a therapy to music as medicine.
Daniel Leviton, who is today a researcher at McGill University but began his career working as a sound engineer in the music industry, has been making research connecting brain function and music available to all through his books. "This Is Your Brain on Music" and "The World In Six Songs" have been bestselling books that have explored wide ranging thoughts on the impact of music. His lab at McGill University continues this research.
"A Well Tempered Mind; Using Music to Help Children Listen and Learn" by Peter Perret and Janet Fox. This is an interesting book I discovered as I wandered through our local library. The book describes a project carried out by members of the Winston- Salem Symphony and Bolton Elementary School, a school for at risk students in in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the United States. They were trying to discover if music could help children learn, experiencing improvements in reading, writing and mathematics. This kind of collaboration is encouraging to see. It also points to the importance of music in education.
Dr Stephen Porges, an American neuroscientist, known for his Polyvagal Theory, is best known for his work with trauma. In the article Music Therapy and Trauma he discusses physiological impacts of music therapy. He supports the work of Dr. Minson who created Integrated Listening System (mentioned below). In this scientific document Dr. Porges discusses the positive impact music can make for individuals with social dysfunctions including autism and mental disorders.
Realizing that music and rhythm have been with humans since the dawn of time I was drawn to a book on chanting which has a tradition in most cultures. "Chanting: Discovering Spirit in Sound" written by Robert Gass and Kathleen Brehony explores the history of chant and its potential role in well being.
This article in the journal Nature was recently brought to my attention. The research found music can enhance cognition and affect dopamine a neurotransmitter implicated in aggression and behavior. The researchers found that music performance "effects the biological pathways that are otherwise essential in the proper maintenance of neuronal function and survival". This shows a growing realization that music plays a significant role in humanities development.
An interesting article appeared in a newsletter from the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine (FAIM) entitled The Therapeutic Use of Sound in Alternative and Conventional Medicine .
Related Therapies and Research
In July 2017 I heard an amazing interview with Jeff Strong, a percussionist, who has carried out years of work with people on the autism spectrum, and with anxiety, sleep issues, neurological and mood disorders and more. He developed Rythmic Entrainment Intervention
(REI) a brain stimulation program. His website provides information and access to his work. I feel this type of work has tremendous potential to improve lives without medication.
In April 2018 I discovered the work of Dr. Ron Minson who created the Integrated Listening System (ILS) following his experience using sound and music therapy to help his daughter struggling with dyslexia. Originally trained in psychiatry and neurology Dr.Minson eventually left that work to concentrate on sound therapy. He has trained many practitioners to work with his products and they have found success helping not only young people but also adults with brain dysfunctions. In this you tube video Dr. Minson is speaking at a symposium of the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) about their particular experience with autism. Having listened to a number of talks by Dr. Minson I am impressed that he is constantly integrating ideas from others he meets. His open mindedness does him credit.
An article in the Globe and Mail led me to the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University where they are conducting amazing research into the positive impact of music on learning and brain function. They now partner with schools in the United States to enhance this work. There is information and access to this research on their website.
Research conducted at the Brain and Mind Institute associated with The University of Western Ontario related to Parkinson's disease sets a model of finding complementary therapies for health issues using music. This innovative work is exciting and sets an example of treatment models which are more comprehensive than just prescribing a medication.