During an operation to remove a double tumour in the spinal cord of a 10-year-old boy, doctors watching the brain activity of their patient saw a change when the music played on a piano next to him was interrupted.
As the team led by doctor Roberto Trignani was carrying out the four-hour operation, molecular biologist and musician Emiliano Toso played a grand piano in the operating theatre at a frequency recognised to have a therapeutic effect on the body.
“We have tried to stop and then restart the music, noticing the patient’s response, despite the fact that he was under total anaesthesia the brain perceived the music and this was very exciting,” Toso said.
Doctors said the patient was doing well but further tests were needed to see if another operation was required.
“Everything went well, there were no complications. There was a magical atmosphere of complete harmony,” Trignani, who leads the neurosurgery unit of the Riuniti hospital in the central Italian city of Ancona, was quoted as saying by Ansa news agency.
“Across the history of time, music has been used in all cultures for healing and medicine,” says health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, PhD.
“Every culture has found the importance of creating and listening to music. Even Hippocrates believed music was deeply intertwined with the medical arts.”
Scientific evidence suggests that music can have a profound effect on individuals – from helping improve the recovery of motor and cognitive function in stroke patients, reducing symptoms of depression in patients suffering from dementia, even helping patients undergoing surgery to experience less pain and heal faster. And, of course, it can be therapeutic.
“Music therapy is an established form of therapy to help individuals address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs,” says Mirgain.
“Music helps reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and cortisol in the body. It eases anxiety and can help improve mood.”