Spotify therapy: Make your medication more effective by listening to your favorite music

Some good music at the right time can make a bad day better. 

Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that our favorite tunes can also boost the effects of medications. They found that music-listening interventions appear to make medicines more effective.

Music therapy has been shown to be beneficial in treating pain and anxiety in previous studies. Music-listening interventions were studied this time to see if they could reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Music listening interventions are like over-the-counter medications, according to Jason Kiernan, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing [1]. Twelve chemotherapy patients listened to their favorite tunes for 30 minutes each time they took anti-nausea medications during the study.

During the five days following chemotherapy, subjects repeated the music intervention whenever nausea occurred. A total of 64 events were reported by patients.

Music fires all kinds of neurons in the brain, says Professor Kiernan. The brain interprets pain and anxiety as states and chemotherapy-induced nausea is not a stomach condition but a neurological one.

The research team observed a decrease in patients’ nausea severity and distress, but Kiernan cautions that it is difficult to precisely determine whether the medication’s gradual release or the music’s increased benefit is responsible.

In the future, the researchers will draw inspiration from another study which measured levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) released by platelets after listening to both pleasant and unpleasant music. “Nausea caused by chemotherapy is primarily caused by serotonin,” says Kiernan. “Cancer patients take medications to block serotonin’s effects.”

Based on that earlier project, researchers noted that patients listening to pleasant music experienced the lowest levels of serotonin release, which indicates the serotonin stayed in their blood platelets and was not released to circulate throughout the body. The patients’ stress levels increased after listening to unpleasant tunes and their serotonin levels increased.

Professor Kiernan concludes that this was intriguing because it offers a neurochemical explanation for serotonin and how it can be measured in my study. Isn’t it interesting if in 10 to 20 years, nonpharmacological interventions like listening to music could complement medical treatments?

The study is published in Clinical Nursing Research [2].


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