How does music affect our immunity?


Clinical psychologist and music therapist Mark Rider, Ph.D did a study on 12 hour shift-working nurses constantly under high levels of stress and found the following:

“Rider tested urine for levels of corticosteroids, hormones secreted by our adrenal glands when our bodies are engaged in the fight-or-flight stress response. He also took body temperatures to assess the degree to which their bodies retained proper circadian (day/night) rhythms- one indicator of body-mind homeostasis. When the nurses listened to tapes of soothing music and practiced relaxation and guided imagery, their rhythms were appropriately balanced and their levels of urinary stress hormones were reduced”. (Gaynor 2002)

Rider attribute the findings to the neurotransmitters and neuropeptides in the body. “it may be-calm the mind and therefore the body; or it may have emotional effects, which influence neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, which in turn help to regulate the immune system- the healer within”. (Gaynor 2002)

Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel Levitin asserted that engaging in musical experiences has an impact on health through four major neurochemical pathways:

  1. Music results in pleasure, reward, and motivation, as documented by the release of dopamine and various opioids, or peptides, that are endogenously produced in the body.
  2. Music affects stress and arousal through demonstrated changes in stress hormones, like cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH).
  3. Participation in musical activities initiates release of serotonin and neuropeptides, including beta-endorphins and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormones that work on the immune system.
  4. Changes in oxytocin as a function of music reveal a sense of belonging and social affiliation.

(Hanser 2016)

In a study done by Rider, it has been found that music when used with guided imagery reduced stress hormones and raised the level of disease-fighting immune cells. In this study:

“a group of university students was lectured on the secretion of antibodies. They were then instructed to imagine antibody production while listening to live improvised music, which, they were told, would facilitate their imagery. A second group listened to the same music without any other instructions, while a third group sat in silence. At the end of the session, the production of sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) antibodies was tested through collection of saliva and measurement of skin temperature. Rider found that slgA production was significantly higher in the imagery/ music group than in either of the other groups”. (Gaynor 2002)

In a study done by Michigan State University in 1993, it was found that “levels of interleukin-1 (an immune-cell messenger molecule that helps to regulate the activity of other immune cells) increased by 12.5 to 14 percent when subjects listened to music for fifteen-minute periods”. (Gaynor 2002)

One thought on “How does music affect our immunity?

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