Just a quick thought…

Carol Joy Loeb, a former opera singer, is a certified music practitioner and registered nurse. When she arrives at a patient’s bedside, she’s prepared to alleviate misery.

‘I use the music to bring a calmness to them,’ Loeb says. ‘It helps with pain and agitation. And in the case of those who are actively dying, it helps them to go peacefully.'”

I think we all have experienced how music can help change our moods for better or for worse, but studies like the one above show that it can actually alleviate physical pain as well! So if you stub your toe or you get kicked while playing soccer, just turn on your ipod, no big deal.



“That’s how I learned the lesson that everyone’s alone. And your eyes must do some raining, if you’re ever gonna grow. But when crying don’t help and you can’t compose yourself it’s best to compose a poem. An honest verse of longing, or a simple song of hope. That is why I’m singing…”

– Bowl of Oranges, Bright Eyes

Bands like Bright Eyes attract millions of listeners because of their ability to capture listeners with their lyrics. Music has a way of playing with people’s emotions. What’s interesting to me is the reciprocity of the art. For example, as told above in the lyrics, Bright Eyes obviously uses poetry, lyrics, and song to express his feelings. And likewise, the audience finds joy in listening to the music because of the way the lyrics and music match their emotions. It’s an activity in which both the artist and the audience benefit.

Research based Temple University in Philadelphia has a great music therapy program. They explain about “sessions which involve composing, where the therapist helps the client to write songs, lyrics, or instrumental pieces, or to create any kind of musical product, such as music videos or audiotape programs. Usually the therapist simplifies the process by engaging the client in easier aspects of the task (e.g., generating a melody, or writing the lyrics of a song), and by taking responsibility for more technical aspects (e.g., harmonization, notation).”

Girl sings about cancer battle

Like any other therapeutic interventions, there will be success stories, and there will be failures. Cancer is so prevalent these days that it’s hard to encounter someone who hasn’t been affected in some way by cancer. “Eleanor Bothwell was 9 when she wrote “’Cause You Are Yourself,” a song about her battle with bone cancer, as part of the music therapy program at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.”

Unfortunately she lost her fight with cancer this past Sunday. An article released during her battle talks about the influence music therapy had on her.

“The song that poured out of her – entitled ‘Cause You Are Yourself” – is about Eleanor’s experience battling cancer: ‘You feel the hurt inside you. It’s wanting to come out,’ she sings.

Eleanor is among the children who work three days a week with UNC music therapist Elizabeth Fawcett.

‘She comes down, and it makes me feel better,’ Eleanor said. ‘It makes me feel like I am cared about.'”

Girl sings about cancer battle.

Cat got your tongue?

Music therapists are combining with speech therapists to help children learn to speak. Studies show that sign language improves the rate of communication for children learning how to speak. Apparently so does music!

“Because singing and speech share many similarities, yet are accessed differently by the brain, music strategies can be an alternate way to practice functional communication.  Music is also an effective means to organize speech by “chunking” phrases into predictable patterns and offering timing cues to assist in pacing.  Since many early speech phrases are taught through repetition and imitation, these same phrases can be modeled through song as an initial teaching format, followed by fading of the music and use of the language in more natural settings.”

So if you have a hard time with communication, especially with dating, you might want to try some music therapy to rehearse what you should say and how to say it. Just kidding. But seriously.

“Under the Influence”

Obviously music influences us, but I think most of the time we don’t realize how much. Our lives are so consumed by music that we don’t realize how big a role it plays in our lives. Can you imagine watching a horror movie without intense sound effects or creepy music? I’ll bet it wouldn’t be near as scary. But what is scary is the effect that music and the media have on youth. I’m in a psychology class about human development. One of the sections talked about adolescents and how they are more likely to participate in sexual activities when exposed to sexually explicit media such as MTV and the music they hear on the radio. A news article on WebMD links rap music with risky sexual and violent behavior.

I also ran into  this article on nytimes.com/health that talks about the influence of music on youth.

“Teenagers listen to an average of nearly 2.5 hours of music per day. Guess what they’re hearing about?

One in three popular songs contains explicit references to drug or alcohol use, according to a new report in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. That means kids are receiving about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music they listen to, the authors determined.

Studies have long shown that media messages have a pronounced impact on childhood risk behaviors. Exposure to images of smoking in movies influences a child’s risk for picking up the habit. Alcohol use in movies and promotions is also linked to actual alcohol use.”

Autism in children

My nephew, Andrew, has down syndrome, and a couple months ago I went to a group therapy session with him and a bunch of other children with disabilities (all under the age of 3). At the session they had a bunch of different therapists and activities – music, speech therapies, occupational therapists, etc. I was pretty impressed with the musical involvements, especially the way that the children responded to musical stimuli.

I read an interesting article about how children with autism generally don’t “engage in positive affect exchanges (smiling and laughing) with others in social situations,and difficulties in the social-affective area are not only found to be stable,but proposed to be a core deficit in children with autism.” The study in the article showed that more “‘compliant (positive) responses’were observed more in music therapy than in toy play sessions, and ‘no responses’ were twice as frequent in toy play sessions as in music therapy.”


Posted below is a description of a study done at Cambridge in April 2009 that talks about the relaxation effects of music therapy on agitated elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Other articles I found show different ways that music therapy interventions have been used to study Alzheimer’s and its symptoms. One of the articles talked about how music therapy increased serum melatonin levels in patients with Alzheimer’s. Pretty interesting stuff!

“While working as a staff development coordinator in a long-term care facility during the mid to late 1980s I witnessed agitation in persons with dementia (PWD) and the negative effects that these behaviors had on both the caregiver and the care recipient. Published research findings validated the widespread prevalence of this problem. Management strategies at the time focused primarily on chemical and physical restraints which, in and of themselves, were fraught with adverse effects. Shortly thereafter I enrolled in graduate school where I focused my efforts on exploring this problem with a clear understanding that there was a need for alternative interventions that were relatively inexpensive and could be readily and easily implemented by trained staff. These efforts eventually led to the development of individualized music as an intervention for the management of agitation in PWD. Individualized music is defined as music that has been integrated into the person’s life and is based on personal preference (Gerdner, 1992). Extensive clinical experience along with findings from a pilot study (Gerdner, 1992) served as the foundation for the development of intervention guidelines (Gerdner, 1996) and a mid-range theory of individualized music intervention for agitation (IMIA) (Gerdner, 1997). The publication of the original pilot study (Gerdner and Swanson, 1993) generated a considerable amount of interest resulting in further efforts toward testing the effects of individualized music for the management of agitation in PWD (Casby and Holm, 1994; Cohen-Mansfield and Werner, 1997; Devereaux, 1997; Thomas et al., 1997; Clark et al., 1998). The strengths and limitations of these studies were used to design a more rigorous methodology using a larger sample for the purpose of testing the propositions of IMIA and the effects of individualized music when compared to classical “relaxation” music on the frequency of agitation in PWD. The findings of this study were published in International Psychogeriatrics (Gerdner, 2000). As of January 2009, this article has been cited in 91 scholarly publications and was the impetus for additional studies conducted in the U.S.A., Sweden, Japan and Taiwan. These efforts have resulted in an expanding body of research to support the use of this intervention for the management of agitation (Ragneskog et al., 2001; Janelli et al., 2002; Suzuki et al. 2004; Sung et al., 2006; 2008; Park, 2008).”