Music as medicine has huge potential, study suggests

McGill University researchers sought patterns in 400 published researcher papers

Posted: Apr 1, 2013 9:41 PM ET

Music boosts the body’s immune system and is more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before a surgery, a research review from two psychologists at Montreal’s McGill University suggests.
“I think the promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do,” said Daniel Levitin, who co-authored the review recently published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science.
Levitin and post-doctoral researcher Mona Lisa Chanda reviewed 400 published scientific papers, trying to find patterns among the results.
They found that music had documented effects on brain chemistry and associated mental and physical health benefits in four areas:

  • Management of mood.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Boosting immunity.
  • As an aid to social bonding.

The review found 15 studies showing that people’s levels of a stress hormone called cortisol dropped after they listened to relaxing music, indicating a reduction in stress. One paper even compared patients at a hospital before surgery who were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take an anti-anxiety drug such as Valium. Click here to read more.

Can Meditation Make You More Compassionate?

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 2, 2013

In a number of religious traditions, it is believed that meditation can improve compassion. Now, a study in the journal Psychological Science finds hard evidence to back that claim.
Recent research has already suggested meditation can help individuals lower stress and ease physical disorders such as hypertension or arthritis. The new study extends those beneficial effects to interpersonal harmony and compassion.
Researchers from Northeastern and Harvard universities, led by David DeSteno, Ph.D., invited participants to complete eight-week trainings in two types of meditation. After the sessions, they were put to a test.
For the study, researchers placed two actors in a staged waiting room consisting of three chairs. With one empty chair left, research participants sat down and waited to be called.
Another actor using crutches and appearing to be in great physical pain, would then enter the room. As she did, the actors in the chair would ignore her by fiddling with their phones or opening a book. Click here to read on.

Even A Little Exercise Can Improve Sleep

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 5, 2013
About 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep problems. But a new poll of more than 1,000 Americans finds support for a simple sleep aid: exercise.

“Exercise is great for sleep. For the millions of people who want better sleep, exercise may help,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, which conducted the poll.
Sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity.
In the poll, whose participants ranged in age from 23 to 60, self-described exercisers reported better sleep than self-described non-exercisers, even though they say they sleep the same amount each night (6 hours and 51 minutes average on weeknights).

Vigorous, moderate and light exercisers were significantly more likely to say “I had a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers (67 percent-56 percent vs. 39 percent).
Also, more than three-fourths of exercisers (76 -83 percent) say their sleep quality was very good or fairly good in the past two weeks, compared to slightly more than one-half of non-exercisers (56 percent). Click here to read more.

CAMH study shows mental illness associated with heavy cannabis use

Ap​ril 2, 2013 – People with mental illnesses are more than seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly compared to people without a mental illness, according to researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who studied U.S. data.

Cannabis jointCannabis is the most widely used illicit substance globally, with an estimated 203 million people reporting use. Although research has found links between cannabis use and mental illness, exact numbers and prevalence of problem cannabis use had not been investigated.

“We know that people with mental illness consume more cannabis, perhaps partially as a way to self- medicate psychiatric symptoms, but this data showed us the degree of the correlation between cannabis use, misuse, and mental illness,” said Dr. Shaul Lev-ran, Adjunct Scientist at CAMH and Head of Addiction Medicine at the Sheba Medical Center, Israel.

“Based on the number of individuals reporting weekly use, we see that people with mental illness use cannabis at high rates. This can be of concern because it could worsen the symptoms of their mental illness,” said Lev-ran, who conducted the research as a post-doctoral fellow with the Social Aetiology of Mental Illness (SAMI) Training Program at CAMH. To read more, click here.