Music has always been regarded as an innately emotional medium. Music “moves” us, whether through the radio, a movie soundtrack, or a workout playlist. Music influences our feelings, or even changes them.
A study published in March 2018 assessed the effect of music therapy on the emotions of patients in a palliative care unit at a hospital in Barcelona. Forty adults participated in the study, twenty were randomly assigned to receive music therapy, and twenty were randomly assigned to receive social support in the form of company. All participants had been admitted to the PCU. Participants who were assigned to the music therapy group were interviewed regarding their music preferences.
Three different professional music therapists conducted the music therapy sessions. The sessions each included music listening, active singing or instrument playing, and a relaxation intervention. Researchers recorded EEG data before, during, and after the music therapy session. Participants also self-assessed pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, appetite, wellbeing, and shortness of breath using a written data form.
The researchers observed a significant increase in valence and arousal in EEG measurements for participants who received music therapy. These results are interpreted by the researchers as showing a positive emotional effect on the patients. No significant changes in EEG readings were observed for participants who received company only. Participants in the music therapy group also reported decreases in tiredness, anxiety, and breathing difficulties, as well as increase in levels of wellbeing. No equivalent changes were observed for participants who received company only.
Overall, the researchers concluded that participation in music therapy sessions can positively modulate mood for patients on a palliative care unit, as well as addressing other symptoms such as weakness and anxiety.
By Amber Bruns, MT-BC
Ramirez, R., Planas, J., Mercade, J., & Farriols, C. (2018). EEG-Based analysis of the emotional effect of music therapy on palliative care cancer patients. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00254