PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Although the literature on complementary therapy, including music, is vast, there are few studies conducted in a scientific fashion exploring physiologic mechanisms. This review summarizes recent evidence on the effects of music on the hypermetabolic response of critical illness. RECENT FINDINGS: Music may restore some of the distorted homeostasis observed in ICU patients, as well as reducing pain and the need for sedation. Music likely reduces alterations in the hypothalamic-anterior pituitary-peripheral hormone axes that produce cortisol and growth hormone. Music may also increase growth hormone levels, which can induce decreased production of cytokines such as IL-6 by white blood cells. Further, ovarian steroid secretion may paradoxically protect women by increasing baseline circulating stress hormones, providing an opportunity for music therapy to intervene effectively. Dopaminergic neurotransmission has been implicated as a means by which music can modulate the central nervous system. SUMMARY: Music may play an important role as an adjunct therapy in critical care. However, further studies are necessary to elucidate how music can be further integrated clinically and the precise underlying mechanisms of its beneficial effects.
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Nov;11(6):790-4. Nelson A, Hartl W, Jauch KW, Fricchione GL, Benson H, Warshaw AL, Conrad C. Tufts University, School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.