There is no doubt that music has a powerful effect on the brain. It can reduce pain, relieve stress and help with brain injuries.
Billy Joel once said: “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
Beyond having a love for music, ancient civilisations were familiar with its powerful healing qualities. In some old African communities instruments were strummed over the body of a person inflicted with disease, as it was believed that the tunes had healing qualities.
Research indicates that the healing quality of music may stem from the release of the body’s natural pain relievers. When under a lot of stress, the body releases high amounts of cortisol. Listening to music can be highly effective in lowering these levels. Dopamine is also released when listening to music, which results in uplifted moods. This can aid mental illness recovery.
Studies into music therapy have also found that it can hasten the recovery process after a stroke. In 1973 music-based treatment Melodic Intonation Therapy was developed to help stroke survivors become enabled to sing with fluency and clarity, thereby helping speech development.
Although music therapy has been used around the world since ancient times, in the United States it gained prominence in the late 8th century. Ancient civilisations who practised music therapy believed that music could exorcise disease. It was used to cure imbalances, which was when there was a lack of harmony in a person’s physical or psychical nature.
Now an established health profession, recent studies into it suggest that it may lower symptoms of prenatal anxiety for some expectant women. In the 1950s it complemented therapy used to treat mental-health concerns.