Meanwhile, a second team of researchers has found that music has a powerful effect on the immune system, boosting compounds that defend the body against infections.
Evidence is growing that music can have a beneficial effect for patients. Researchers have been looking for effects in conditions as varied as stroke, autism, heart problems, mental health, depression, pain, fractured limbs, Alzheimer's and lung disease. Piped music has been used to ease anxiety before operations, and harp music to reduce pain after surgery, with some research suggesting it can be as effective as the sedative Valium.
Listening to music has been found to aid recovery after a stroke and heart attack. A study of 60 men and women at Helsinki University found that patients who listened to music soon after having a stroke recovered better. Three months after the stroke, memory had improved by 60 per cent in those provided with music, compared to 29 per cent in a control group. Concentration, mood and attention to detail also improved in the music group by 17 per cent, compared to no change in the other.
Music has been found to ease chronic and acute pain, too. Research at Dongsan University in Korea on 40 patients with fractured legs showed that 30 to 60 minutes of music a day lowered levels of pain and of blood pressure, and also improved respiration rates.