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Music on Prescription Might be Helpful to Treat Emotional and Physical Pain

Music on Prescription Might be Helpful to Treat Emotional and Physical Pain

Photo: Woman with headphones listening to music 

New research into how music conveys emotion could benefit the treatment of depression and the management of physical pain.

Using an innovative combination of music psychology and leading-edge audio engineering the project at Glasgow Caledonian University is looking in more detail than ever before at how music conveys emotion.

The research could lead to advances in the use of music to help regulate a person’s mood, and promote the development of music-based therapies to tackle conditions like depressive illnesses. It could help alleviate symptoms for people who are dealing with physical pain and even lead to doctors putting music on a prescription that is tailored to suit the needs of an individual.

“The impact of a piece of music on a person goes so much further than thinking that a fast tempo can lift a mood and a slow one can bring it down. Music expresses emotion as a result of many factors,” says audio engineering specialist Don Knox, project leader. “These include the tone, structure and other technical characteristics of a piece. Lyrics can have a big impact too. But so can purely subjective factors: where or when you first heard it, whether you associate it with happy or sad events and so on. Our project is the first step towards taking all of these considerations – and the way they interact with each other – on board.”

The team has already carried out an unprecedentedly detailed audio analysis of pieces of music, identified as expressing a range of emotions by a panel of volunteers.

Each volunteer listens to pieces of previously unheard contemporary popular music and assigns each one a position on a graph. One axis measures the type of feeling (positivity or negativity) that the piece communicates; the other measures the intensity or activity level of the music. The research team then assess the audio characteristics that the pieces falling into each part of the graph have in common.

“We look at parameters such as rhythm patterns, melodic range, musical intervals, length of phrases, musical pitch and so on,” says Knox. “For example, music falling into a positive category might have a regular rhythm, bright timbre and a fairly steady pitch contour over time. If tempo and loudness increase, for instance, this would place the piece in a more ‘exuberant’ or ‘excited’ region of the graph.”

The ultimate aim is to develop a comprehensive mathematical model that explains music’s ability to communicate different emotions. This could make it possible, within a few years, to develop computer programs which identify pieces of music that will influence a individual’s mood (e.g. to motivate them when exercising or when revising for exams), meet their emotional needs and help them cope better with physical pain.

REHACARE.de; Source: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

- More about the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council at www.epsrc.ac.uk

 
 

( Source: REHACARE.de )

 
 

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