Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Music, Mental Disorders and Emotional Reception Behaviour

Review: Janet Spring
Gebheardt, S., Von Georgi, R. Music, mental disorder and emotional reception behaviour. Retrieved October 29, 2008 at: http://www.musictherapyworld,de/modules/mmmagazine/showarticle.php?articletoshow

Music has always played an important role in emotions and mental wellbeing, a fact that has been undisputed since ancient times and across many cultures. In this study by Gebheardt, fifty five patients with varying mental disorders were studied to determine if “the functional-receptive use of music in everyday life on specific diagnostic groups of mental disorders” is viable. Using the IAAM quantitative methodology, the “Inventory for the Assessment of Activation and Arousalmodulation through Music” ( p. 3), the researchers investigate the “functional utilization of music for the modulation of emotional activation processes”(p. 3).

Patients participating in the study were admitted to the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the Phillips-University of Marburg, Germany and suffered from mental and behavioural disorders. These included: “schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders, mood affective disorders, neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders and ….personality and behaviour disorders” (p. 3). Two control groups of 1) medical students and 2) adults recruited from companies and clubs was also utilized. The IAAM results were tabulated under the following parameters: 1) relaxation 2) cognitive problem solving 3) reduction of negative activation, 4) fun seeking and 5) arousal modulation. The patients were then tested for these five parameters and results were compared with the two control groups: students and adults. A ONEWAY analysis was carried out and results were reported for the five IAAM parameters.

Listening to music is a complex activity where the brain registers and computes melody, harmony, pitch, timbre, rhythm, etc, where these are addressed in “different cortical and basal structures of the central nervous system” (p. 8). As music can have a positive or negative affect on emotions and mental state, the type of music utilized can also have an effect on a person’s mental state. Results of this study point to the fact that patients who suffer from mental disorders employ music to reduce negative emotional activation, cognitive problem solving and somatic relaxation. On the other hand, music for the control sample of healthy adults and students is used for “positive stimulation” (p. 7), an activity which for persons with mental disorders is difficult to do. It is also noted in the study that, “musical stimuli have been shown to activate specific pathways in several brain areas associated with emotional behaviours and mental disorders, such as the insular and cingulated cortex, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdale, in ventral striatum, midbrain, orbitofrontal cortex and ventral medial prefrontal cortex” (p. 8). The authors also suggest that music could modulate anxiety in patients with this affliction where anxiety is shown in the amygdale or prefrontal cortex. Music therefore may play a very important role in regulating mental disorders. However, the authors point to the fact that more research must be completed in this area and research must be carried out in a larger patient sample size to affect more detailed results.


Music may become an increasingly important tool to affect positive change in patients who suffer from mental disorders. Further research however, must be carried out to investigate the clinical use of music as a positive and/or negative stimulator. As our society becomes more drug dependent, and our lives become increasingly stressful, listening to and performing music may become even more important as an effective agent to improve the emotional state of students, adults and those who suffer from disorders of the mind.

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