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Stress And Music: Music Stimulates Multiple Areas Of The Brain

1718 words - 7 pages

Music therapy involves the clinical use of music interventions in order to alleviate pain, improve cognitive functioning, reduce social anxiety, and encourage overall physical and mental well-being (American Music Therapy Association). Techniques often involve individuals actively participating in music therapy through singing, comp¬¬osing, or listening to music. Evidence based studies have demonstrated that music therapy can elicit both a physiological and psychological response, resulting in cognitive and behavioral benefits that make it an ideal therapeutic tool in handling stress in normal daily activities as well as in the health care setting.

Music stimulates multiple areas of the brain by provoking auditory, emotional, autonomic, and cognitive processing. Once the sound waves from the music are heard, signaling travels from the auditory system to the areas of the brain responsible for processing and dissecting the sound information. These areas are the primary auditory cortex, heschl’s gyrus, the frontal operculum, the superior temporal sulcus, and cortical language areas. Following sound processing, emotional processing of the sound heard takes place in the amygdala, cingulate gyrus, and medical orbitofrontal cortex of the brain. Feedback from the processed music can lead to physiological responses and changes in the autonomic nervous system as a result of the type of music heard (Nizamie and Tikka). For example, harsh, fast paced music tends to increase sympathetic nervous system activity (increased heart rate, faster breathing), whereas gentle, soothing music stimulates the body to relax, activating the parasympathetic nervous system (slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and slower breathing) (Nizamie and Tikka).

The origins of music therapy are based on the early theories of the Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Plato and in the healing practices of Native Americans who believed that music could positively influence the healing process of an individual’s mind, body, and spirit (American Music Therapy Association). According to Plato, music has the ability to create harmony within oneself as he wrote, “Music is medicine to the soul” (qtd. in Carroll 174). The modern use of music therapy as an alternative form of therapeutic treatment began in the mid 20th century after traumatized World War II veterans returned home in need of rehabilitation to learn how to cope with their wartime experiences (Carroll 177). These early beginnings transitioned into the organization of techniques to incorporate the psychology of music and body movement into a clinical form of treatment in the health care setting. As these techniques began to gain traction and popularity, this led to the establishment of the music therapy programs specifically dedicated to training professionals in music therapy (American Music Therapy Association). Today, music therapy has been recognized as a growing field in the health profession...

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