Most mice don’t listen to classical musical, but those that do tend to suffer significantly less from pain and inflammation than those that don’t, according to a new study in the journal Frontiers in Neurology. While this doesn’t mean that doctors are likely to start serenading their chronic pain patients any time soon, it does open the door to a new pathway for the treatment of pain and a reduction in prescription medications.
Researchers from the University of Utah played three 3-hour-long Mozart compositions to mice with injured paws – either as a result of a cut or being injected with a compound to cause inflammation. After 21 days of listening to the Austrian maestro, the rodents were able to withstand heat and pressure to their slashed paws for 77 percent longer than those that had not heard the music.
The team also found that music significantly increased the efficacy of a range of medications. For example, Mozart-assisted ibuprofen treatment led to a reduction in swelling that was 93 percent greater than that produced by ibuprofen alone, while cannabidiol was 21 percent more effective when paired with the music.
Study author Grzegorz Bulaj explained in a statement that many painkillers “produce toxicity and adverse effects,” and that by using music to enhance the efficacy of these drugs, it may be possible to treat pain using far less medication.
The researchers can’t say exactly how music helps to treat pain, but previous research has shown that melodious sounds result in a decrease in stress hormones like cortisol, which are linked to inflammation. Music has also been found to improve the regulation of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines, and to aid the development of new neurons in the brain.
In their write-up, the authors state that their “long term goal is to delineate how specific musical structures can be translated into electrical patterns in the brain and the peripheral nervous system,” resulting in pain reductions.
They also note that not all music is suitable for this purpose, and that Mozart was chosen because the rhythmic repetition of his compositions has previously been found to have a calming effect on the nervous system.
Mice who prefer heavy metal, gangster rap, or K-pop may therefore want to rethink their music choices.