The fifth in our series of reviews on the iMRS Prime’s features focuses on another function within its brain entrainment option: sound and music therapy. With the Exagon Brain device, you can now upload your own choice of music tracks to be combined with the binaural beats already programmed into the system.
The combined audio output is then synchronised with specific PEMF intensities and frequencies (especially when you use one of the Prime’s Fast Start programs), producing a seamless “brain spa” effect. The system is then able to deliver whatever state of relaxation or sleep, motivation or performance, you might want to experience.
At Life Mat, based on long experience with different types of healing, meditational and learning-oriented music, we can supply you with recommendations for the different states or experiences you might choose. Preferably you will use some high-grade headphones for this and again we can recommend types that we’ve found to be particularly suitable for this type of treatment system.
What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?
Music is now used in almost every area of life. And music therapy, once seen as a new age concept, is now considered a valid tool in many health care, learning and business environments. Some clearly identified frequencies are being used in modern healing practices, and often, music is combined with other modalities such as binaural beats, isochronic tones, light effects, colour therapy, drumming and voice projection.
According to the British Association for Music Therapy (1):
“Music therapy is an established psychological clinical intervention, delivered by HCPC registered music therapists to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.”
We’re beginning to understand how different tones and frequencies in music can cause subtle but meaningful changes in physiological processes including blood pressure and severe anxiety. And among its cognitive uses are improved motivation and athletic performance, helping to reduce depression and boosting the thought processes and memories of older people who are in cognitive decline.
Music can also have an impact on work productivity. With many of us working from home because of the Covid pandemic, the Guardian recently reported that (2):
“Beyond providing background noise, music has been shown to improve both productivity and cognitive performance, especially in adults. Listening to music can help people manage anxiety, become motivated and stay productive. You just need to know how to make the right playlist.”
A Short History of Music Therapy
The use of music to change human feelings and perceptions has been around for thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, Pythagoras and Plato both believed that music could not only alter mood, but also had an impact on intellectual capacity.
The therapy we see today began to develop in the 18th and 19th centuries and especially in the USA in the 1940’s through 1970’s. As physicians came to recognise its healing potential, various groups came together to form the American Association of Music Therapy, and similar organisations soon formed around the world.
In the 11th century, a monk named Guido D’Arezzo developed the Solfeggio scale which contained specific tones. These are often seen in Gregorian and Sanskrit chants and were used during meditative and religious practices in ancient times. Since then, Solfeggio tones have seen a resurgence in some modern healing programs after their re-discovery in the 1970’s by the physician and researcher, Dr. Joseph Puleo.
Today, Solfeggio tones have a special place in music therapy and are represented by one entire Fast Start program in the iMRS Prime system – this program delivers all nine frequencies simultaneously.
Recent research into the Solfeggio tones has produced some interesting results. The frequencies are a fairly narrow set of tones thought to directly affect areas of mental and bodily health. Research in Japan (3) examining a narrow solfeggio frequency band found:
“That the influence of music on the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system varies depending on the frequency of the music, and furthermore, that 528 Hz music has an especially strong stress-reducing effect, even following only five minutes of exposure.”
There are 9 frequencies within the Solfeggio ranges and they are all thought to have a slightly different effect:
- 174 Hz — Relieves pain and tension
- 285 Hz — Stimulates energies of safety and survival
- 396 Hz — Eases anxiety, fear and guilt
- 417 Hz — Helps to initiate change and release past trauma
- 528 Hz — Could help with healing or repairing DNA (4)
- 639 Hz — Repairing relationships
- 741 Hz — Good for creativity and finding solutions.
- 852 Hz — For intuition and spiritual wellness
- 963 Hz — Feelings of oneness and unity
Over the last few years, we’ve seen various music therapy packages based around these frequencies. Research that focuses on the 528 Hz tone is particularly interesting with several recent studies seeing positive physiological and resulting psychological effects.
One good example was a recent study in Genes Genomics (5) looking at its impact on the brains of rats. It found that:
“Sound waves with 528 Hz frequency in 100 dB intensity induce testosterone production in the brain” (going on to explain that testosterone production in both male and female brains is necessary for anxiety reduction) and “Frequency of 528 Hz also reduces the total concentration of reactive oxidative species in brain tissue.”
The consultancy company Deloitte some time ago brought a range of musical engagement to its offices through a UK company called Music in offices (6). This included forming an office choir and giving employees access to learning an instrument.
This, they discovered, helped break down the standard office hierarchy and boosted morale. As one Deloitte partner put it: “Music in Offices has been one of the most interesting and impactful morale-boosters I have experienced in 20 years with the firm.” Soon companies such as Channel 4, News International, Norton Rose, L’Oreal and other big names had signed up for the scheme.
Playing music may also provide a wide range of useful cognitive benefits, including the release of dopamine which enhances memory and improves connections between different brain cells.
While many employers may be ambivalent, there is growing evidence that music has significant benefits in the workplace. According to the Oxford University based chairman of Mindlab International, Dr David Lewis (7):
“Music is an incredibly powerful management tool in increasing the efficiency of a workforce. It can exert a highly beneficial influence over employee morale and motivation, helping enhance output and even boosting a company’s bottom line.”
Marketing and Music
Marketers have long known the power of a catchy tune in selling their products, through more emotional engagement with the potential customer. There’s a lot of evidence that music activates several different parts of the brain including auditory, limbic, and motor regions.
According to one study into lateralized brain responses (8):
“Results suggest spontaneous emotion-related processing during naturalistic listening to music and provide supportive evidence for the hemispheric specialization for categorical sounds with realistic stimuli.”
As far back as the 1950s, researchers were postulating that music can help enhance cognitive ability. This soon became part of Accelerated Learning technologies and more recent research (9), has looked at the so-called Mozart Effect. This suggests that this type of classical music produces more alpha waves which can improve cognitive ability and learning.
Other research suggests that singing can help with learning a foreign language (10). Another study showed that combining binaural beats with other sounds including music can improve working memory capacity.
The use of music therapy in clinical and other therapeutic settings is as broad and varied as music itself, and we’re still barely scratching the surface of understanding its full potential in healthcare.
Some approaches use specific tones or frequencies in the music to elicit physical and psychological effects. Others use the rhythm and the words of particular music to encourage certain responses – for example, evoking memory, reducing stress and improving cognitive performance.
For researchers at the University of Toronto (11) who are learning how low-frequency pulses can help Alzheimer’s patients, there are promising results. As lead researcher Lee Bartel explains:
“We’ve already seen glimmers of hope in a case study with a patient who had just been diagnosed with the disorder. After stimulating her with 40-hertz sound for 30 minutes three times a week for four weeks, she could recall the names of her grandchildren more easily, and her husband reported good improvement in her condition.”
We often think of music health benefits as purely psychological. But there is some evidence (12), that music can help to reduce physical pain in patients who have just undergone an operation.
There is also useful research on its effect on the autonomic nervous system. One study (13) looked at the effect of different frequencies on individuals with a consciousness disorder following brain injury and found that the autonomic response could be altered, especially when complex musical structures with various frequencies were used.
Speed and crescendo may also play a role in our autonomic response, including regulating the cardiovascular system. A study in the journal Circulation in 2009 (14), for example, found:
“Crescendos (increases in the intensity of music) were accompanied by decreases in skin vasomotion and increases in HR and systolic and diastolic blood pressures, indicative of shifts towards sympathetic predominance.”
Some studies have found that music can also impact key neurotransmitters and related psychological responses. In one study, MRI scans (15) showed increased levels of dopamine in people who were listening to music that was giving them a positive experience.
Another promising area is recovery from stroke. One study found improvement in brain and motor functions (16) after patients had taken part in a music-making activity. Mood and concentration also improved.
Music Therapy and Brain Entrainment
Brain entrainment is the ability of the brain to naturally synchronise with the rhythm or frequency of an external stimulus, for example, music and rhythmic blinking light (as used in the Exagon Brain device in the iMRS Prime system). These stimuli can be from light, noise/music, tactile sensations or a mixture, and are used in various therapeutic settings. They work by helping to change brain states and, for example, improve mood or cognitive ability.
Not only are brain entrainment therapies effective in their own right but music also has its own, undoubtedly more complex, rhythms and frequencies that may be equally useful. One of the areas where this is currently being explored is what is called neurologic music therapy or rhythmic entrainment.
This may be useful, for example, in the treatment and rehabilitation of motor, speech and cognitive disorders. According to a review article published in Frontiers in Psychology (17):
“The temporal structure of music remains a central element in therapy and rehabilitation. However, the discovery of rhythmic entrainment has also opened the door to exploring the therapeutic mechanisms in other elements of music such as melody and harmony, and finally in the pattern structure of music as a complex auditory language to stimulate and (re)-train complex cognitive functions.”
Music is sometimes used in association with low-frequency sound vibration (18) to help improve perceived well-being through decreasing blood pressure and pulse rate.
The Future of Music Therapy
There’s a long way to go in our understanding of how music and sound therapies affect the human body and mind, and it’s difficult to quantify all the potential that it offers. In some areas such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and psychotherapy, it’s used regularly and in many different forms, from listening to music, to making music or learning how to play an instrument. And we’re beginning to see its potential in physiological areas like pain management.
These are exciting times. According to Michael Thaut at the University of Toronto (19):
“The understanding of music’s role and function in therapy and medicine is undergoing a rapid transformation, based on neuroscientific research showing the reciprocal relationship between studying the neurobiological foundations of music in the brain and how musical behavior through learning and experience changes brain and behavior function.”
The relationship between music therapy and brain entrainment presents especially interesting possibilities for the future. Entrainment is currently used to help the brain reach altered states of consciousness and, just like music therapy, may have a big role to play in controlling or altering emotional responses, improving memory function and boosting cognitive ability as well as helping to deal with a wide range of conditions such as anxiety, stress-related illness and depression. The final result has the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts.
- British Association for Music Therapy What is Music Therapy?
- Cass Balzer Music can boost your productivity while working from home – here’s how The Guardian, 2020
- Kaho Akimoto, Ailing Hu et al Effect of 538 Hz on the Endocrine System and Autonomic Nervous System Health Vol. 10, 2018
- Sherri Kane Miracles in Medicine Explained by Sound Science Cision PR Newswire, 2019
- T Babayi Daylari and G H Riazi et al Influence of various intensities of 528 Hz sound-wave in production of testosterone in rat’s brain and analysis of behavioral changes Genes Genomics, 2019
- Paul Guest Music in offices: sing it loud and proud The Guardian, 2012
- Dr David Lewis New research shows music hits the right notes for business success PRS for Music, 2014
- Vinoo Alluriab, PetriToiviainena et al From Vivaldi to Beatles and back: Predicting lateralized brain responses to music NeuroImage, 2013
- Harmon, Troester et al The Effects of Different Types of Music on Cognitive Abilities Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research, 2008
- Karen M Kudke et al Singing can facilitate foreign language learning Memory & Cognition, 2013
- Amy Novotny Music as medicine Science Watch, 2013
- Whitaker, Mauree H. BSN, RN Sounds soothing: Music therapy for postoperative pain Journal of Clinical Excellence, 2010
- Francesco Riganello, Maria D. Cortese et al How Can Music Influence the Autonomic Nervous System Response in Patients with Severe Disorder of Consciousness? Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2015
- Beatrice Bretherton et al The Effects of Controlled Tempo Manipulations on Cardiovascular Autonomic Function Sage Journals, 2019
- Valorie Salimpoor et al Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music Nature Neuroscience, 2011
- Alexander Street et al Neurologic music therapy in multidisciplinary acute stroke rehabilitation: Could it be feasible and helpful? Taylor & Francis Online, 2020
- Michael H. Thaut et al Neurobiological foundations of neurologic music therapy: rhythmic entrainment and the motor system Frontiers in Psychology, 2015
- Eha Rüütel The Psychophysiological Effects of Music and Vibroacoustic Stimulation Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 2009
- Michael Thaut The future of music in therapy and medicine The New York Academy of Sciences, 2006