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Research Confirms: Music Boosts Immune Function, Lowers Stress

August 18th, 2008

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany and Sussex University in the UK studied the physical and biochemical effect of music on the human body. Their findings, some of which have been published in a recent study, include surprising and beneficial physical effects just from both listening to music and playing a musical instrument.

300 volunteers were involved in the study. Some study participants listened to uplifting dance music while others played along on percussion instruments. The researchers did not compare the effects of different types of music, but suspect that different types of music would have different effects, due to different perceptions of the music rather than differences in the music itself.

Music’s effects on immune system function were determined by measuring blood levels of immune proteins called antibodies. Researchers saw a rise in antibodies like immunglobulin A after exposure to 50 minutes of upbeat dance music, indicating a positive effect on immune function. Effects on stress levels were determined by measuring blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol also fell in those listening to the dance music while playing along on a percussion instrument.

Even playing music while a person was under general anesthesia was found to lower stress hormone levels.

The researchers envision a role for music in hospital and clinical settings, where it may serve as an inexpensive and safe way to hasten recovery times by enhancing immune function and lowering the levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which slow the healing and repair of damaged tissue.

In the past, research has shown other interesting benefits and effects just from listening to music. For example a 2003 study showed that music lowered testosterone in males, but raised it in females. This study, like the one above, also showed that cortisol was lowered in both sexes.

An abstract of that study can be viewed here.


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