Healing with Harmony: Music in Medicine

May 15, 2013

Danielle Decosmo's stage is a hospital room.

The hospital volunteer plays for cancer patients, like Virginia. Her husband David says...

"It does a lot towards helping you get the right attitude to heal instead of feeling down and sorry for yourself," said David.

"It just uplifts you," said Virginia.

"I do see a change often," said Decosmo. "I definitely think music helps people heal."

Board-certified music therapist Elizabeth Stegemoller knows it does.

"Music stimulates multiple areas of the brain," said Stegemoller.

The neuroscience PhD specializes in Parkinson's and says walking in time with music can help patients overcome walking difficulties.

"If you have a person with a motor disorder, you can use music to help facilitate movement," said Stegemoller.

Stegemoller says, after singing training, Parkinson's patients' speech can improve too.

A program at Saint Louis University is testing if music improves cancer treatment by decreasing patients' stress. Research at the University of Kentucky found it did reduce surgery patients' pain and recovery time. And it's been shown to increase Alzheimer's patients' cognitive function.

Stegemoller says more research is needed to find out what music changes in the brain.

"There's a lot of theories out there as to why it's working, so now those theories need to be tested," said Stegemoller.

Music programs for vets with PTSD are showing promise. A study funded by the VA found vets given six weeks of guitar lessons reported a 21 percent reduction in overall symptoms and a 37 percent increase in health-related quality of life.

For More Information, Contact:

Elizabeth L. Stegemöller, PhD, MT-BC

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