Your favourite song could make medicines more effective, study finds

Your favourite song could make medicines more effective, study finds


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Whether you’re a die-hard fan of one genre or enjoy a variety of music, listening to your favourite song could offer more than just a mood booster. New research suggests that music could also make medicines more effective.

Pouring out of speakers at a gig or playing straight out of your headphones at a gym, music is an inherent part of life.

Classic tunes seem to find their way everywhere from supermarket aisles to special events.

However, listening to music you enjoy could offer more than a good time, according to the research, published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research.

Researchers from Michigan State University have discovered that music-listening interventions could also make a difference in medicine efficacy.

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“Music-listening interventions are like over-the-counter medications,” said Jason Kiernan, a researcher on the study. 

“You don’t need a doctor to prescribe them.”

Kiernan took a novel approach by studying the effects of music-listening interventions on chemotherapy-induced nausea.

The researcher said: “Pain and anxiety are both neurological phenomena and are interpreted in the brain as a state.

“Chemotherapy-induced nausea is not a stomach condition; it is a neurological one.”

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Looking at 12 patients undergoing chemotherapy, the small pilot study asked the participants to listen to their favourite music for 30 minutes each time they took anti-nausea medications.

The volunteers also repeated the music intervention anytime nausea occurred over the five days beyond their chemotherapy treatment.

The findings showed a reduction in the ratings of patients’ nausea severity as well as the distress of being nauseous.

However, the research team explained that it is difficult to tell whether it was the gradual release of the medication doing its job or the increased benefit of the music. 

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For future studies, the team wants to draw inspiration from previous research that measured the amount of serotonin that was released by platelets in the blood after listening to unpleasant and pleasant music.

Kiernan said: “When we listen to music, our brains fire all kinds of neurons.

“Serotonin is the major neurotransmitter that causes chemotherapy-induced nausea.

“Cancer patients take medications to block serotonin’s effects.”

The previous research found that patients who listened to pleasant music experienced the lowest levels of serotonin release, indicating that the serotonin stayed in the blood platelets and was not released to circulate throughout the body. 

The findings also showed that after listening to unpleasant music, patients experienced greater stress and increased levels of serotonin release.

Kiernan said: “This was intriguing because it provides a neurochemical explanation and a possible way to measure serotonin and the blood platelet release of serotonin in my study.

“In 10 to 20 years, wouldn’t it be neat if you could use a nonpharmacological intervention like listening to 10 minutes of your favourite music to complement a medicine?”

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