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Music and Health

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Numerous books, articles, and studies have been published in recent years about the positive correlation between musical performance and improved scores on standardized tests and other intelligence assessments. Children who learn to perform music also have a variety of other positive social and behavioral benefits. Recently, best-selling author and physician, Oliver Sacks has published a book titled Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, which suggests that, in addition to all of the other benefits of music, there is a physiological healing effect of music on those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Autism, or Parkinson’s disease. According to an AP report on May 31, Sacks says that, “Even with advanced dementia, when powers of memory and language are lost, people will respond to music.”

As an avid music lover, Sacks addresses the confluence of neurology and music in this book which reviews a variety of individual cases where he studies both the therapeutic aspects of music, as well as the pathological changes that have affected people’s response and ability to perform and hear music. Some of the more interesting and unusual cases he cites in his book are musical hallucinations by people with hearing loss; people who had seizures that were triggered by certain types of music; and a lightening strike on a doctor causing him to develop a mania for music. This book is certainly a good summer read for anyone interested in the impact of music on the mind.

Another resource for the ways in which music positively effects healing and improves the body’s immune system is The Healing Music Organization (www.healingmusic.org). An article by Amrita Cottrell on this site refers to a 1993 study on psycho-immunology which indicates “that there is a direct link between a person’s thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and emotions and the health of the immune system. This being the case, we have the ability to be proactive in the health of our body, mind, and spirit through music.” The evidence sited in Sacks’ book and within this Web site adds to the growing body of evidence that supports active listening and performing of music as beneficial to our overall wellbeing.

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