Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35. During that short lifespan he consistently endured intense pain. Mozart suffered from smallpox, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, typhoid fever, rheumatism, and gum disease. The severe migraines that plagued him for years may have been caused by the skull fracture that was discovered posthumously.
Now pain researchers are learning that Mozart’s music helps reduce pain… at least in laboratory mice
Grzegorz Bulaj, PhD, is an associate professor in medicinal chemistry at the University of Utah. He’s the senior author of a study published on March 27 in the peer-reviewed publication Frontiers in Neurology.
Pain was induced, then alleviated, in laboratory mice
Pain emulating that caused by inflammation was induced in one group of mice. Another group’s induced pain was designed to mimic surgical pain. Two different kinds of analgesic medications (ibuprofen and cannabidiol), and two anti-epileptic drugs (NAX-5055, and levetiracetam) were administered to various groups of the mice.
And then the mice listened to Mozart. Three hours and four minutes of Mozart every day for three weeks.
The playlist was designed to synchronize the mice’s brain waves to Mozart’s rhythms, chord progressions, and musical phraseology. His Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major was the featured selection. It was repeated multiple times throughout the experiment.
“Music is like DNA. We had musicians analyze sequences of several Mozart pieces to optimize the playlist,” Bulaj said. “It was both exciting and challenging to integrate these musical analyses into neural pharmacology.”
And it worked. Listening to Mozart lessened the pain
- The music and ibuprofen pairing reduced pain in the inflammation model by 93%, as compared to ibuprofen alone.
- Music plus cannabidiol reduced inflammation by 21% and the NAX-5055/music pairing was 9% more effective against inflammation.
- In the surgical model, music alone reduced pain by 77%.
“There is emerging evidence that music interventions can alleviate pain when administered either alone or in combination with other therapies,” said Cameron Metcalf, PhD, who was first author on the paper. “It is exciting to think of what this might mean for the anti-inflammatory effects of music interventions and where the research may take us next.”
Mozart’s genius turned his pain into some of the most glorious musical expressions known to humanity. Now, more than three centuries later, that same genius may unlock the door to innovative new forms of effective pain management.
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