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Tune Up Your Health
Date:1/29/2010

Scientists zero in on why listening to music seems so beneficial,,

FRIDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The litany of suspected benefits is long: It can soothe infants and adults alike, trigger memories, temper pain, aid sleep and make the heart beat faster or slower. "It," of course, is music.

A growing body of research has been making such suggestions for years. Just why music seems to have these effects, though, remains elusive.

There's a lot to learn, said Robert Zatorre, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, where he studies the topic at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Music has been shown to help with such things as pain and memory, he said, but "we don't know for sure that it does improve our [overall] health."

And though there are some indications that music can affect both the body and the mind, "whether it translates to health benefits is still being studied," Zatorre said.

In one study, Zatorre and his colleagues found that people who rated music they listened to as pleasurable were more likely to report emotional arousal than those who didn't like the music they were listening to. Those findings were published in October in PLoS One.

From the scientists' standpoint, he explained, "it's one thing if people say, 'When I listen to this music, I love it.' But it doesn't tell what's happening with their body." Researchers need to prove that music not only has an effect, but that the effect translates to health benefits long-term, he said.

One question to be answered is whether emotions that are stirred up by music really affect people physiologically, said Dr. Michael Miller, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

For instance, Miller said he's found that listening to self-selected joyful music can improve blood flow and perhaps promote vascular health.
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