Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Music Medicine. A Neurobiological Approach.

Reviewer: Liesel Deppe

Reference: Hassler, Marianne. Music Medicine. A Neurobiological Approach.

Summary: Music medicine is a relatively new field for most countries in the world, although European countries are probably a couple of steps ahead of the world. (Probably because music plays such a huge role in those societies, and therefore seem to have more musicians, students, etc., who might need help.)

Musicians suffer from stage fright, psychic stress, pain syndromes (e.g. tendonitis) and motor disturbances (e.g. focal dystonia). The physical demands of playing a musical instrument (play a non-symmetrical instrument, e.g. the violin), expectations to perform perfectly, as well as being scrutinized and criticized by conductors and colleagues all place a lot of stress of musicians. While musicians and non-musicians suffer from the same diseases and anxieties, there is growing evidence that the musician’s brain structure differs from that of other individuals. They differ with respect to brain structure and function, as well as some hormonal and immunological parameters. While non-musicians might find calm music relaxing, any music acts as a stressor to the musician. An increase in cortisol while listening to music, event the peaceful variety, can be found in musicians.

Dr. Hassler suggests that, because of these differences, that perhaps musicians should receive different medical treatment than other non-musicians. She does not suggest what diseases might be differently, or how they might be treated differently, but I would think that certain music therapies might not be very helpful to musicians, especially if it stresses them, rather than calms them.

Personal Response: As mentioned above, I would think that music therapy would be one area that would not be beneficial to musicians a s a form of treatment, or if it is, it would have to carefully worked out. The tone of the article sounds a bit as if musicians are pitted against non-musicians in terms of traditional treatment for the same diseases or conditions, i.e. musicians need special treatment, compared to “the rest of them”. While this might not have been the intention, it might have been helpful to include some professions that might also benefit from a specifically tailored treatment plan. Or as another article I reviewed has suggested, that not all treatment may work the same way for everyone. For instance, alpha neurofeedback may actually have a detrimental effect on individuals who suffer from certain types of depression. It seems that especially in the field of neurobiology that every person is different and may therefore need careful evalution before being treated. Just as some people have drug allergies, or may not respond the same to all drugs, the field of neurobiology is also very diverse. While musicians may differ from the rest of the population in the big picture, this does not mean that a blanket approach is appropriate.

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