Is This Surprising Remedy Stronger Than A Sedative? 

Image by Michela Ravasio / Stocksy

Is there anything that can make you instantly happy/sad/excited/sleepy quite like music? There's something so powerful about sound, and certain music can affect our physiology in ways that feel impossible. That is, until you experience it firsthand.

There's no doubt that music is a powerful tool. And researchers at the University of Pennsylvania believe in the potential of sound and music so much, they think it could help sedate patients before surgery.

But can music really do all that?

According to the study they conducted, which was published in the British Medical Journal, yes. The researchers split 157 patients into two groups; group one was given a common sedative called midazolam, and group 2 was played music (the song "Weightless," by a band called Marconi Union to be exact), while also being given a local anesthetic for the pain.

The results showed that the reductions in anxiety were very similar in the two groups.

So what explains this? As Veena Graff, M.D., an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told the BBC, "Music lights up the emotional area of the brain, the reward system and the pleasure pathways. It means patients can be in their own world; they can be comfortable and have full control."

Using music in place of common drugs, like benzos, is an exciting idea. As the authors of the study explain, "Benzodiazepines are known to have undesirable side effects such as respiratory depression and hemodynamic perturbations and paradoxical effects such as hostility, aggression, and psychomotor agitation." In contrast, music therapy is risk-free and also—and this is a huge bonus, especially with the way our health care system is right now—it's free.

Music therapy has been around for centuries, but as Harvard Health wrote in one of their publications, "In the past few decades, music therapy has played an increasing role in all facets of healing." Music has shown promise for decreasing pain, reducing the side effects of cancer therapy, restoring lost speech, and helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation (just to name a few).

So what's next for the science of music therapy? According to the researchers on the study, the next step is to identify whether or not the type of music and how it's delivered affects its benefits. We have a hunch that it will. After all, the song they played patients was pretty. See for yourself! You can listen to it here.

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