The idea that music might have healing properties isn't new. The ancient Greek god Apollo, pictured above, was god of both medicine and music. For the most dramatic ancient anecdote about music's healing power, consider Orpheus, who almost successfully used his musical prowess to rescue his love from death itself.
There's no question that music has a unique power on our nervous systems. Otherwise we wouldn't enjoy it so much. More objective measurements can be taken of our heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin conductance when listening to music we enjoy, demonstrating how music is even affecting our unconscious autonomic nervous system. So can music be used to treat neurological disease as well?
Music therapists try to use music's healing properties to help people with several kinds of illnesses, including neurological diseases. In some cases, there have been clear successes. Music therapy can help improve stress and depression, both of which can be damaging to health. Music therapy has also been suggested to improve the quality of life of many people with diseases like Alzheimer's, and may improve recovery of people with stroke.
Of course, this is not to say that music should replace medical therapy for most medical diseases. It would be a serious mistake, for example, to attempt to treat meningitis with an aria instead of an antibiotic. But because the brain is responsible for our psychology, diseases that affect the brain often change our mood and even our personality for the worse. At the very least, music can improve our quality of life, and this is the ultimate goal of medicine as well.
For more information about music therapy and the brain, read here: