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23 July 2018

How music affects these 4 disorders

For most people listening to music is a way to relax and unwind, but in some individuals it can trigger different reactions. We take a look at how people with certain disorders are affected by music.

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There are more 1 200 different types of modern music genres.

Some people like swaying to the rhythms of jazz, while others prefer bobbing to the latest hip-hop beats.

But how does music affect those with certain disorders? In some cases it can alleviate symptoms, whereas in others it can make matters worse. 

Here are four examples:

1. Music and epilepsy

Epilepsy that’s triggered by musical stimulation is known as musicogenic epilepsy. This form of epilepsy was first noted by British Neurologist Macdonald Critchely in 1937.

Musicogenic epilepsy can be described as a form of reflex epilepsy (epilepsy that is triggered by a stimulus). Seizures are induced by exposure to a certain type of music. The musical trigger is different for everyone. For some, it may be a specific song, whereas others are triggered by a pitch or instrument.

According to a study of the disorder, a response can be linked to emotional or cognitive appreciation of the stimulus. Simply thinking or dreaming about the stimulation can also lead to an epileptic episode.

2. Music and insomnia

Many people use music as a way to de-stress and relax. Studies show that music can help patients suffering from insomnia get a better night’s sleep.

Music as a form of therapy for people who have insomnia is popular as it is relatively easy to conduct and has no side effects. Music therapy limits the need for prescriptive drugs, thus lessening the risk of drug dependence.

In a recent study, listening to relaxing music 45 minutes before falling asleep increases sleep duration, quality of sleep and REM. It should, however, be noted that music, although helpful, is not a cure for insomnia.

3. Music and anxiety

Many studies have found that playing music during medical treatments or surgeries helps to relieve stress and anxiety experienced by patients.

In some ways, music serves as a distraction during these procedures. According to music therapists, music has the ability to lower heart rate and regulate hormones. 

Dopamine levels are known to increase when listening to music. This is, however, only true for music with positive undertones or music that one enjoys. Due to the effect music has on emotions, anxiety and depression levels tend to be higher in those who listen to sad or aggressive music when experiencing the same or similar negative emotions. 

4. Music and autism

Music can be a channel of communication for patients with autism spectrum disorder. It can encourage interaction between people. This is particularly evident in music therapy group sessions for patients with autism.

Studies have found that music helps autistic patients process and express emotions. According to psychology professor Ani Patel, "The great emotional power of music may be because it doesn’t just activate one emotion system in the brain; it seems to activate almost every single emotion system at the same time in ways that very few other things can.” 

Image credit: iStock

 
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