PART 1: Music
Author: Imen Maaroufi May 8, 2019

“There is no truer truth obtainable by man than that which comes of music.”
—Robert Browning

Music has always been a powerful tool. Music expresses emotions that we are unable to put into words, it releases anger and tension, and it can be used as a way to motivate individuals and to harmoniously sync the body and the state of mind. We use music during exercise and other tasks to relieve boredom, but also to enliven a motivated activity by following a synchronized rhythm which enhances our stamina. Music is tied into almost every facet of human life, but before expanding on its varied benefits, we will start by focusing on its therapeutic aspects. Music Therapy, increasingly used to treat everything from Autism to Parkinson’s, aims to foster positive growth and clinical improvement in individuals using music as a vehicle for achieving patient-centered goals. The earliest known reference to Music Therapy appeared circa 1789 in Columbian Magazine titled “Music Physically Considered.”1 There were, however, no recorded music therapy interventions or systematic experiments using music therapy until later in the 1800s2. We do find numerous mentions of music as a healing medium as far back in history as the Biblical scriptures and historical writings from such diverse ancient civilizations such as those in Asia, India, China, Ancient Egypt, and the Greek and Roman civilizations, demonstrating how long music has had a lasting impact on society. Around the world, there is a growing demand for Music Therapists, and music is becoming integrated into patient care in hospitals, clinics, and home care. These therapeutic applications underscore music’s role as a language of the heart and soul, and an important tool to stimulate the brain’s function. Music is being used as an aid to brain-damaged patients, and has shown positive results in preventing depression. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins noted that “The brain is able to compensate for other deficits sometimes by using music to communicate.” He continues that, for those practices to have the greatest scientific and medical significance, “it would be a really good thing to know which parts of the brain are still intact to be called into action. To know the circuits well enough to know the backup plan.”

It is crucial to note that music has the potential to act on the brain’s plasticity, emotion, physical health, and linguistic processing, particularly Traumatic-Brain Injury (TBI) and Autism-Spectrum Disorder.3 Related to its applications in the case of severe injuries, according to Carolyn S. Ticker in her publication Music and the Mind: Music’s Healing Powers, music results in physiological changes as well: heart rate, respiration, skin temperature, skin conductance, and hormone secretion, which leads us to conclude that music can be used to affect both mental and physical conditions. The recurrent use of music in education helps students to recall information, strengthen memory consolidation, increase attention and improve reasoning. How to approach each individual can differ depending on their specific age segment, medical records or injuries. From rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS), which connects rhythm and movement, to singing, improvising, and composing, the use of music depends on how comfortable the patient is with acquired skills and learning new ones.

Experts across various medical specialties and industries are beginning to hone techniques for using music as an important therapeutic component. However, the biggest current setback is a lack of quantitative data that measures this impact on the delivered treatment along with the musical variable. By being able to effectively analyze the impact of specific music in various populations and settings, music therapists will be able to increase their understanding of how to best deliver music as a tool for healing and individual development.


1 According to the AMTA: https://www.musictherapy.org/about/history/

2 According to the AMTA: https://www.musictherapy.org/about/history/

3 Carolyn S. Ticker, Music and the Mind: Music’s Healing Powers