A new study found that listening to music can make medicines more effective. Researchers from Michigan State University examined the effects of musical interventions on chemotherapy-induced nausea. The team found that patients who listened to their favorite music for 30 minutes each time they took anti-nausea medication experienced a decline in their nausea and distress.
The study involved 12 patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment who listened to their preferred music for a half hour each time they received as-needed nausea medication. The subjects repeated the music intervention anytime nausea occurred up to five days after chemotherapy treatment. In all, the researchers observed a total of 64 events.
According to Study Finds, the new research builds on previous studies showing how music affects our neurological responses.
“When we listen to music, our brains fire all kinds of neurons,” said Jason Kiernan, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing. “Pain and anxiety are both neurological phenomena and are interpreted in the brain as a state. Chemotherapy-induced nausea is not a stomach condition; it is a neurological one.”
Kiernan cautioned in a Michigan State University release that it is difficult to isolate whether it was the gradual release of the medication doing its job or the increased benefit of the music that elicited the beneficial response. He mentioned that previous studies have measured the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the blood that is released by platelets when study subjects listen to pleasant or unpleasant music.
“Serotonin is the major neurotransmitter that causes chemotherapy-induced nausea,” he said. “Cancer patients take medications to block serotonin’s effects.”
During the previous study, researchers observed that when patients listened to pleasant music, their serotonin levels were low, but when they experienced unpleasant tunes the levels of serotonin in the blood rose and they had greater stress.
“This was intriguing because it provides a neurochemical explanation and a possible way to measure serotonin and the blood platelet release in my study,” said Kiernan. “In 10 to 20 years down the road, wouldn’t it be neat if you could use a non-pharmacological intervention like listening to 10 minutes of your favorite music to complement a medicine?”
The research was published in the journal Clinical Nursing Research.
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