Dr Bach will see you now, or why there's nothing new in music and medicine

Wed, 24 Jun 2009, 11:45am

J S BachSometimes you read breakthrough research with a growing sense of wonder – not at the breakthroughness of it, but that people have spent good money to find out what we knew all along.

The latest example? A report by a team from Italy's Pavia University, showing that music can affect the body, and may be of benefit in the treatment of conditions such as strokes.

According to Dr Luciano Bernardi, his team asked two dozen healthy volunteers to listen to tracks including opera arias and choruses, and a Bach cantata, while monitoring their breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

The results? Crescendos caused blood vessels to narrow, while blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates increased, while diminuendos had the opposite effect, relaxing the test subjects.

Hold the front page – music can make you excited, or calm you down.

News for Dr Bernardi: someone may have spotted this before.

After all, as William Congreve said just a little while ago – in 1697, to be precise – "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast".

Or indeed John Dryden, ten years before that, in his Song For St Cecilia's Day: "What passion cannot music raise and quell!"

Ah, but surely the research suggests music goes beyond simply stirring or soothing us?

Umm, yes, but then the ancient Chinese philosopher had that one covered: "Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without."

Sometime around 1600 years ago...



Ah, another report from 'The School of the Bloomin' Obvious', as my father likes (maybe not so politely) to put it.

Good to see that such academic studies appear unaffected by the economic downturn....

Scientific testing of commonly held beliefs are valid because of the need to debunk urban myths and wives tales.

I am presently trying to get a grant from Glasgow University and sponsorship from Tennants brewery to find out if I drink a whole crate of lager, will I get drunk?

Well, sorry for not agreeing...

I can understand your responses to these studies due to distraction. But you need to read carefully and interpret even more carefully. What has been proven by this study is an effective physical response to music. As you say, we all knew from long, long ago that music had the power to affect moods - not your body. I don't think that anybody doubted that listening to certain types of music would affect you in some way - calm you, excite you, etc. But I challenge you to find a quote prior to this study that claims music affects the body. Think about it - you can now help treat disieses because you know it has an effect - not on faith or assumption that a certain type of music will eventually help your mood and therefore you actual body. They can now investigate more and prescribe specific music to specific disieses. Isn't that wonderfull? And not at all something out of common sense.At most we suspected it... they measured it and proved it.