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There has been a growing interest over the past decade into the health benefits of music, in particular examining its psychological and neurological effects. Yet this is the first attempt to systematically review publications on the psychoneuroimmunology of music. Of the selected sixtythree studies published over the past twenty-two years, a range of effects of music on neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, lymphocytes, vital signs and immunoglobulins as well as psychological assessments are cataloged. Research so far points to the pivotal role of stress pathways in linking music to an immune response. However, several challenges to this research are noted: 1) there is very little discussion on the possible mechanisms by which music is achieving its neurological and immunological impact; 2) the studies tend to examine biomarkers in isolation, without taking into consideration the interaction of the biomarkers in question with other physiological or metabolic activities of the body, leading to an unclear understanding of the impact that music may be having; 3) terms are not being defined clearly enough, such as distinctions not being made between different kinds of stress and 'music' being used to encompass a broad spectrum of activities without determining which aspects of musical engagement are responsible for alterations in biomarkers, In light of this, a new model is presented which provides a framework for developing a taxonomy of musical and stress-related variables in research design, and tracing the broad pathways that are involved in its influence on the body.
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Full Length Review
The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: A systematic review
and a new model
Daisy Fancourt
, Adam Ockelford
, Abi Belai
Department of Life Sciences, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom
Applied Music Research Centre, Roehampton University, London, United Kingdom
Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of Music, London, United Kingdom
article info
Article history:
Received 27 June 2013
Received in revised form 9 October 2013
Accepted 15 October 2013
Available online 21 October 2013
Music therapy
There has been a growing interest over the past decade into the health benefits of music, in particular
examining its psychological and neurological effects. Yet this is the first attempt to systematically review
publications on the psychoneuroimmunology of music. Of the selected sixty-three studies published over
the past 22 years, a range of effects of music on neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, lymphocytes,
vital signs and immunoglobulins as well as psychological assessments are cataloged.
Research so far points to the pivotal role of stress pathways in linking music to an immune response.
However, several challenges to this research are noted: (1) there is very little discussion on the possible
mechanisms by which music is achieving its neurological and immunological impact; (2) the studies tend
to examine biomarkers in isolation, without taking into consideration the interaction of the biomarkers in
question with other physiological or metabolic activities of the body, leading to an unclear understanding
of the impact that music may be having; (3) terms are not being defined clearly enough, such as distinc-
tions not being made between different kinds of stress and ‘music’ being used to encompass a broad spec-
trum of activities without determining which aspects of musical engagement are responsible for
alterations in biomarkers.
In light of this, a new model is presented which provides a framework for developing a taxonomy of
musical and stress-related variables in research design, and tracing the broad pathways that are involved
in its influence on the body.
Ó2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Research into the health benefits of music has rapidly expanded
over the last decade, driven both by a desire to understand more
about the inner workings of music on the brain and body and in or-
der to see how music can be better applied in community, educa-
tional and, in particular, healthcare settings (MacDonald et al.,
2012). The scientific study of music has gradually probed deeper
into the mechanisms underlying the perception and processing of
music, exploring the psychology of music (Hallam et al., 2008)
and the cognitive neuroscience of music, sometimes referred to
as ‘neuromusicology’ (Peretz and Zatorre, 2003). This depth of
enquiry has included the neurological basis for music-induced
emotions (e.g. Trainor and Schmidt, 2003; Juslin, 2009), the neuro-
biology of certain aspects of music such as harmony (e.g. Tramo
et al., 2003) and the neuroanatomy of music performance (Parsons,
2003). And breadth of study has ranged from the perception of folk
songs inside the womb (Lemos et al., 2011), to the performance of
opera on concert platforms (Kenny et al., 2004), and the use of pop
music in operating theatres (Pluyter et al., 2010).
Recently, there has been interest in the chemical and biological
effects music, summarized in two reviews. Chanda and Levitin
(2013) presented an overview of the neurochemical effects of mu-
sic, in which they made reference to immunological changes. Their
research has gained attention in the popular press as apparent evi-
dence that music can boost the immune system and hold the key to
wellbeing. However, their overview was not systematic and due to
the focus specifically on neurochemical responses, it only reviewed
half the studies pertaining to the psychoneuroimmunology of mu-
sic and referred to a third of the immune biomarkers that have
been tested with respect to music.
A second recent article, (Kreutz et al., 2012), overviewed the
psychoneuroendocrinological effects of music in order to test the
assumption ‘that psychological processes associated with musical
experiences lead to changes in the hormonal systems of brain
and body’ (Kreutz et al., 2012, p. 457); something they label as
‘perhaps one of the most fascinating areas of future research’
0889-1591/$ - see front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Corresponding author Address: Centre for Performance Science, Royal College of
Music, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BS, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44 (0)7958
065 563; fax: +44 (0)203 315 6611.
E-mail address: (D. Fancourt).
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
journal homepage:
(Kreutz et al., 2012, p. 471). But as with the study by Chanda and
Levitin (2013), their overview was not systematic and examines
the impact of music on just five biomarkers (cortisol, oxytocin, tes-
tosterone, beta-endorphin and immunoglobulin A). And neither
study discussed parallel physiological or psychological findings.
This led Kreutz et al. (2012, p. 471) to conclude that ‘much more
research efforts should be undertaken to ascertain the emerging
patterns of changes that were reported in the available literature’.
Consequently, a comprehensive systematic review into music
and psychoneuroimmunology is timely. This would aim to consol-
idate key findings to date, compare theories concerning the mech-
anisms behind music’s effect, and highlight gaps in current
knowledge, helping to guide the focus of future studies. In partic-
ular, a systematic review could identify any challenges currently
hindering the progress of research and, by presenting a new model,
help overcome these obstacles.
As the term ‘music’ can be used broadly to refer to the materials
and approaches used in a number of different interventions, it is
relevant to define some of its parameters more specifically. This
is because the style of music, the way it is delivered and personal
attitudes to it may be crucial variables with the potential to alter
psychoneuroimmunological responses. So as well as discussing
these variables in relation to specific studies, it is useful for clarifi-
cation to set them out up front.
The degree of involvement of a participant in music can vary
substantially. Passive involvement may consist of a participant
sitting in silence to listen to either live or recorded music. Active
involvement can range from music education (such as instrumen-
tal lessons), to participatory sessions (such as group workshops), to
therapy (where music is used as a tool for communicating
thoughts or emotions) (Ockelford, 2013). The music used in any
of these interventions can be compositions in a wide range of gen-
res (including classical, jazz or popular), specially composed (such
as designer relaxation music) or improvised in different styles. It
can be selected either by participants or investigators. Some music
may be arousing, involving faster tempi, louder volume and dis-
junct melodic patterns. Other music may be inherently calming,
involving slower tempi, a quieter volume and more even patterns
(Scherer and Zentner, 2001).
Music can also influence our brains and bodies in different
ways: aurally, via direct auditory perception; physically, through
the movements of muscles and sensory experience of vibrations in-
volved in the production and reception of music; socially, as many
musical activities can bring with them additional psychosocial
experiences such as increases in confidence, social participation
and self-esteem; and personally, as music will be approached dif-
ferently by each individual, depending on whether they like or dis-
like the music; whether they are familiar with the style, genre or
work; or whether they feel any particular emotional connection
to it (Juslin et al., 2001).
The effects of music will vary enormously depending on how it
is employed. Consequently, it is necessary to be rigorous in identi-
fying which of its features are responsible for sensitive psycholog-
ical and biological changes. In light of this, more details on the
nature of interventions are given when discussing the studies in-
cluded in this review.
2. Methods
To assess the current state of research on the interactions be-
tween music and psychoneuroimmunology, systematic database
searches were conducted of Cochrane, Web of Science, PubMed,
PsychINFO, Science Direct and Sage Journals, as well as manual
searches of personal libraries. These sources were chosen as they
were felt to give a comprehensive overview of the subject area,
including in their compass journals from the disciplines of psychol-
ogy, immunology, music therapy, music psychology, neuroscience,
medicine, life sciences, social sciences and nursing, among others.
Searches were made using the keyword ‘music’ paired with other
keywords pertaining to psychoneuroimmunology, including ‘im-
mune’, ‘psychoneuroimmunology’, ‘endocrinology’, ‘cortisol’, ‘cyto-
kine(s)’, ‘lymphocyte(s)’, ‘immunoglobulin(s)’, and ‘interleukin(s)’.
The search returned 1938 articles, ranging from 1953 to 2013.
After removing 567 duplicate studies, a total of 1371 studies re-
mained. (see Fig. 1).
Titles, abstracts and keywords were considered, and selection
for inclusion in the review was made on the basis of five criteria.
First, articles had to pertain to a new study. Reviews were read
for their references which brought to light some additional rele-
vant studies to be considered, but were not included themselves.
Second, studies had to be controlled in order that the significance
of alterations in biomarkers could be accurately assessed. Third,
studies pairing music simultaneously with other stimuli such as
exercise, progressive relaxation or guided imagery were only in-
cluded if they also contained a test incorporating just music on
its own, as it was felt that the other stimuli could confound results.
Fourth, studies had to be testing for potential positive effects of
music, even if their results were negative or nonsignificant. Studies
were excluded if they deliberately tried to cause negative re-
sponses or distress through the use of noise, loud volumes or heavy
beats. Finally, it was decided that studies involving animals rather
than humans should be omitted from the review. Although work-
ing with animals can enable highly controlled trials to be under-
taken and address specific research questions, as advocated by
Rickard et al. (2005), even they acknowledge that extrapolating
results from animal studies back to humans carries a number of
limitations. Overall, this search was ‘data-driven’ in that a large
number of keywords were included to identify a broad spectrum
of studies, which were then scrutinized more closely against the
inclusion criteria to assess their relevance to this review.
The selected studies that satisfied these criteria were then
reviewed in full for key information including year of publication,
country of origin, study design, sample size, biomarkers monitored,
genre of music used, mode of music delivery, and depth of immu-
nological discussion. There was a great deal of variation in the
methods applied in these studies. In light of this, it was decided
1938 titles and abstracts
found from database and
personal library searches
1371 tles and abstracts
148 full-text arcles
assessed for eligibility
63 studies included in
systemac review
567 excluded for repeon
1187 records excluded
85 records excluded
Fig. 1. Collection of studies for inclusion in systematic review.
16 D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
that a meta-analysis aggregating the results of these studies was
not possible, and instead a qualitative approach to assessing their
findings was deemed to be more appropriate.
3. Results
We identified sixty-three studies for inclusion in this review,
published from 1989 to 2013. This includes studies from North
America (n= 19), Europe (n= 18), Asia (n= 21) and Australasia
(n= 1) as well as four collaborative international studies. Despite
some controversy about whether complementary therapies (such
as music) should be tested in randomized controlled trials (as dis-
cussed by Mason et al., 2002) this review demonstrates a general
willingness among researchers to follow scientific trial protocols,
so in addition to all of the studies included in the review having
control groups, forty-one studies were randomized. The psycholog-
ical, neurological and immunological findings of these studies are
broken down below.
3.1. Psychological responses
Twenty-eight of the studies in this review considered psycho-
logical responses to music, with twenty-five studies using vali-
dated psychological tests, five using self-report from participants,
and two employing both methods. Twenty-one different psycho-
logical scales were used within the articles, with state-trait anxiety
inventory (STAI) appearing most often, included in a quarter of
psychological studies (n= 7). Six of the studies employed more
than one psychological test, which gave a more comprehensive
overview of the impact of music on participants.
Of the twenty-five studies involving psychological tests,
twenty-two achieved statistical significance and found that psy-
chological results aligned with results from biomarkers, such as
that by Ventura et al. (2012), which found a parallel decrease in
both state and trait anxiety scores and cortisol levels when listen-
ing to relaxing recorded music. Only three studies showed a lack of
correlation between psychological and biological testing (Bittman
et al., 2001; Field et al., 1998; Hirokawa and Ohira, 2003).
Only one of the studies selected involved a follow-up investiga-
tion to see whether changes in psychological state persisted in the
weeks following an intervention. Sakamoto et al. (2013) showed
promising evidence of the sustained impact of music, finding that
improvements in the Behavioral Pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease
Rating Scale (BEHAVE-AD) persisted for 3 weeks following the
end of a 10-week intervention where patients listened to recorded
music selected from memorable periods in their lives.
3.2. Physiological responses
Twenty studies reported recording vital signs including blood
pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. In nine of these, these
were the only physiological measurements used. Several studies,
including Sakamoto et al. (2013), used measurement of vital signs
as evidence of a switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic sys-
tems, equating a change in immune function with a broader stress
response (see Section 4.2). Relaxing music was shown to decrease
blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate in sixteen studies.
Only four studies found no conclusive change.
Both valence and arousal of the music were found to be impor-
tant variables. Sandstrom and Russo (2010) compared recorded
music of four different tempi and moods, but only found a reduc-
tion in heart rate for peaceful, low tempo music. Yamamoto et al.
(2007) found that although heart rate was decreased a little by
high tempo music during a stressful task, there was a much greater
effect with low tempo music. Respiratory rate was only decreased
by low tempo music. Bernardi et al. (2006) found that when com-
paring six different tempo piece of music, blood pressure was not
changed by calming music but was increased by fast tempo music.
Studies that incorporated more complex controls produced the
most convincing results. For example, (Kibler and Rider (1983)
reported that listening to Mozart had more of an impact on vital
signs than a progressive relaxation session, and Berbel et al.
(2007) found listening to relaxing recorded music to be as effective
as diazepam in reducing vital signs of anxiety.
Three studies reported physiological measurements other than
cardiac response, two of which achieved statistical significance.
Sandstrom and Russo (2010) and Yamamoto et al. (2007) com-
pared skin conductance levels before and after exposure to music.
Sandstrom and Russo (2010) found a decrease in skin conductance,
associated with a decrease in sympathetic stimulation, following
peaceful music, but no change for agitated, happy or sad music.
Yamamoto et al. (2007) found that skin conductance increased less
in a group exposed to low-tempo music following a stressful situ-
ation than a group exposed to high-tempo music.
3.3. Neurological responses
This review revealed a total of fifteen studies examining neuro-
logical response to music [see Table 1]. McKinney et al. (1997)
examined the effect of music on the opioid peptide neurotransmit-
ter beta-endorphin, noting a decrease in response to relaxing re-
corded music. The same style of music produced an increase in
mu-opiate receptor in a study by Stefano et al. (2004).
The monoamine neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepi-
nephrine were tested in twelve studies. Seven of these reported
no change in response to recorded music, including Hirokawa
and Ohira (2003), who also found no change in levels of dopamine,
another monoamine neurotransmitter, nor other biomarkers (see
Section 3.5.1). However, three studies involving relaxing recorded
music found a decrease in epinephrine and norepinephrine. And
the same result was noted by Okada et al. (2009) in response to
music therapy.
3.4. Endocrinological responses
A total of thirty-two studies examined the effect of music on
hormones [see Table 2]. Of these twenty-nine included measure-
ments of cortisol. Among these studies there was a general consen-
sus that music reduced levels of cortisol (n= 18), whether through
active participation or listening to recorded music. Only two stud-
ies noted the opposite tendency, (Escher et al., 1993; Uedo et al.,
2004), but in both cases the increase in the music group was less
than the increase in the control group. Escher et al. (1993) found
that this pattern in cortisol was mirrored in their readings of adre-
nocorticotropic hormone levels; a smaller increase in the music
group compared to the control group.
When investigators selected the music on behalf of participants,
the majority of studies involving cortisol focused on the effects of
relaxing music (n= 11). However, there were four studies that ex-
plored the effects of stimulating music, which produced conflicting
results. Mockel et al. (1995) found a parallel decrease in cortisol for
both relaxing and stimulating music, whereas Yamamoto et al.
(2007) only found a decrease for relaxing music, and Gerra et al.
(1998) actually found an increase for stimulating music. This last
result was mirrored in the response of growth hormone and
adrenocorticotropic hormone measured in the study, along with
a similar response from epinephrine, which increased on exposure
to stimulating music but was unchanged in response to relaxing
music. These results demonstrate an apparent sensitivity of
hormones to musical stimulation. More research will, however,
D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26 17
be needed to clarify which musical variables are responsible for the
alterations in biomarkers.
Another variable in cortisol studies – patient vs experimenter
selected music – was tested in only one study, (Leardi et al.,
2007), which suggested that cortisol was most responsive to par-
ticipant-selected music. However, as this is the only study consid-
ering this variable with cortisol, further studies would be needed to
validate this finding.
Of the other hormones tested, Nilsson (2009) found an increase
in oxytocin when participants listened to relaxing recorded music.
Bittman et al. (2001) found an increase in the dehydroepiandros-
terone-to-cortisol ratio when participants took part in group
drumming, whilst Conrad et al. (2007) found a decrease when pa-
tients listened to relaxing recorded music, along with an increase
in growth hormone. When participants selected their own re-
corded music, Migneault et al. (2004) found an increase in testos-
terone for men, but a decrease for women. There were no
significant changes in the other four biomarkers tested in this
study, which included cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone, epi-
nephrine and norepinephrine. The study by Suzuki et al. (2005)
found that music therapy sessions decreased levels of chromogra-
nin A, which was accompanied by an immune response (see
Section 3.5c).
3.5. Immunological responses
3.5.1. Leukocytes
Six studies examined the effect of music on leukocytes [see
Table 3a]. Bittman et al. (2001) found that natural killer cells in-
creased, which was accompanied by an endocrine response (see
Section 3.4) when participants took part in stimulating group
drumming sessions. In contrast, Leardi et al. (2007) found that
for relaxing recorded music, natural killer cell levels decreased,
with the most marked results noted when patients selected their
own music. Cai et al. (2001) found that participatory music therapy
sessions prevented levels of natural killer cells along with CD4+ T
cells, CD3, and the ratio of CD4 to CD8 cells from dropping.
Other tests measuring numbers of CD4 and CD8 cells were car-
ried out by Hirokawa and Ohira (2003) and Staricoff et al. (2002).
Stimulating recorded music, studied by Hirokawa and Ohira
(2003), was found to increase levels of CD4+ T cells in plasma.
But there were no significant results noted for CD8+ T cells, nor a
range of other leukocyte and endocrine measurements. On the
other hand, Staricoff et al. (2002) found that levels of CD4+ T cells
did not rise high enough to achieve significance, but CD8+ T cells
did in the presence of live music. Koyama et al. (2009) found an in-
crease in CD4+ T cell counts among older adults who took part in
group drumming workshops, along with an increase in lymphocyte
and memory T cell counts (and other immune biomarkers; see Sec-
tion 3.5.2), but these results were not found in younger adults.
3.5.2. Cytokines
Eight studies reported the investigation of cytokines [see
Table 3b], although Lai et al. (2013) found no results due to the
breakdown of cytokines in plasma before they could be analyzed.
Of the remaining seven studies, interleukin-6 showed the greatest
levels of responsiveness, changing significantly in four out of the
five studies in which it was tested. Okada et al. (2009) and Conrad
et al. (2007) both found a reduction in response to music therapy
sessions and relaxing recorded music respectively. Both studies
also found the same changes as each other in neurotransmitters
(see Section 3.3). A decrease in interleukin-6 was also found by
Stefano et al. (2004) among older adults exposed to relaxing re-
corded music. Although there were no significant changes found
in this study for interleukin-1-beta or interleukin 10, there was a
neurological biomarker change reported (see Section 3.3). The
fourth decrease in interleukin-6 was found by Koyama et al.
(2009) during group drumming exercises. But this was only found
in younger adults. For older adults, it increased, along with in-
creases in levels of interferon-gamma, and was accompanied by a
significant leukocyte response (see Section 3.5.1). However, for this
same study levels of interleukins 2, 4 and 10 remained unchanged
in participants of all ages (Koyama et al., 2009).
Among other cytokine responses, Bartlett et al. (1993) found an
increase of interleukin-1 when patients selected their own re-
corded music, which was matched by an endocrine response (see
Section 3.4). And Kimata (2003) found that the music of Mozart
down-regulated levels of interleukins 4, 10 and 13 (Th2 type
cytokines) and up-regulated levels of interferon-gamma and inter-
leukin-12 (Th1 type cytokines) in patients undergoing an allergic
Table 1
Neurological responses to music.
Study Activity details E NE Dopamine b-End MOR
Active participation
Okada et al. (2009) Music therapy ;;
Recorded music – participant-selected (various styles)
Wang et al. (2002) ––
Lin et al. (2011) (From a list)
Chlan et al. (2007) (From a choice of genres)
Migneault et al. (2004) (From a choice of genres)
Schneider et al. (2001) (From choice of genres)
Mockel et al. (1995) (From choice of genres) ;
Escher et al. (1993) (With a music therapist)
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (relaxing)
Conrad et al. (2007) ;
Brunges and Avigne (2003) ;
Stefano et al. (2004) "
McKinney et al. (1997) ;
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (stimulating)
Field et al. (1998)
Gerra et al. (1998) Stimulating vs sedative "
Hirokawa and Ohira (2003) Stimulating vs sedative – – –
Note: Arrows (;or ") indicate significantly higher or lower levels relative to both baseline and control conditions, unless otherwise specified. Dashes indicate no significant
change. Blank fields indicate that the biomarker was not investigated. Abbreviations: E, Epinephrine; NE, Norepinephrine; b-end, beta-endorpin; MOR,
-opiate receptor.
The experimenters only found an increase with stimulating, not sedative music.
The experimenters found a decrease with sedative but no change for stimulating music.
18 D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
response. These cytokine patterns were in direct contrast to the
direction of up- and down-regulation noted when these patients
were made more stressed. In the presence of the more stimulating
music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert, reported
relaxation was lower and immunological results were not signifi-
cant (Kimata, 2003).
3.5.3. Immunoglobulins and other immune responses
Thirteen studies examined the effect of music on immunoglobu-
lins [see Table 3c]. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) was the most researched
antibody (n= 12). Of these studies, eight reported an increase in the
level of IgA following a range of musical interventions with a wide
variety of styles and genres. Only one study showed a significant
decrease in IgA levels (Nomura et al., 2004). It is notable that this
study also reported an increase in IgA following a stressful task;
the opposite of the anticipated reaction. As these results have not
been replicated, there is a need for further investigation. IgA
increases were found to be greatest when music was liked and when
participants were actively involved in its production (McCraty et al.,
1996; Kuhn, 2002).
Two studies investigated music and allergy response. Following
consumption of allergenic food, music was found to reduce levels
of histamine release (Kejr et al., 2010). And for patients experienc-
ing a reaction to latex, Kimata (2003) found that the music of Mo-
zart reduced levels of immunoglobulin E. The author attributes this
reduction to a broader decrease in stress response inferred from
cytokine measurements (see Section 3.5.2).
4. Discussion
4.1. Findings
The aim of this review was to assess systematically the pub-
lished studies dealing with the psychoneuroimmunological effects
of music. The findings of these studies revealed that there are some
markers which have now been studied in depth, allowing us to
Table 2
Endocrinological responses to music.
Study Activity details CORT ACTH CRH DHEA PRL GH OT Test CgA
Active participation
Bittman et al. (2001) Group drumming "
Lindblad et al. (2007) Instrumental music lessons ;
Suzuki et al. (2005) Music therapy ;
Recorded music – participant-selected (various styles)
Chlan et al. (2012)
Lai and Li (2011) ;
Wang et al. (2002)
Milukkolasa et al. (1994) ;
Bartlett et al. (1993) ;
Lin et al. (2011) (From a list)
Schneider et al. (2001) (From choice of genres) ^
Chlan et al. (2007) (From a choice of genres)
Mockel et al. (1995) (From choice of genres) ;
Migneault et al. (2004) (From a choice of genres) ;"
Ventura et al. (2012) (From choice of genres) ;
Leardi et al. (2007) (From choice of genres vs new age) ;
Escher et al. (1993) (With a music therapist) "
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (relaxing)
Nilsson et al. (2005) ;
Uedo et al. (2004) "
Nilsson (2009) ;
Nilsson (2009) "
Khalfa et al. (2003) ;
Tabrizi et al. (2012) ^
Conrad et al. (2007) –– ;"
Knight and Rickard (2001) ;
Kar et al. (2012) ;
Urakawa and Yokoyama (2004)
Fukui and Yamashita (2003) ;
Berbel et al. (2007) ;
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (stimulating)
Koelsch et al. (2011) ;
Field et al. (1998) ;
Yamamoto et al. (2007) Stimulating vs sedative ;
Gerra et al. (1998) Stimulating vs sedative ";
Note: Arrows (;or ") indicate significantly higher or lower levels relative to both baseline and control conditions, unless otherwise specified. Arrows (v or ^) indicate that
without music (i.e. in control groups), levels decreased or increased, but with music levels remained constant. Dashes indicate no significant change. Blank fields indicate that
the biomarker was not investigated. Abbreviations: CORT, Cortisol; ACTH, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone; CRH, Corticotropin-releasing Hormone; DHEA, Dehydroepian-
drosterone; PRL, Prolactin; GH, Growth Hormone, OT, Oxytocin; Test, Testosterone; CgA, Chromogranin A.
The experimenters found an increase, but it was not significant.
The experimenters found an increase in the DHEA-cortisol ratio.
The experimenters found an increase for men and a decrease for women.
The experimenters found an increase with stimulating music and decrease with sedative music.
The experimenters found increase, but it was less in the music group than the control group.
The experimenters found a decrease for both stimulating and relating music.
Although cortisol levels decreased in both groups compared to controls, the experimenters found a significantly greater decrease in the group where patients selected
their music from one of four styles compared to the group who listened to new age music.
The experimenters found a decrease only following low tempo music.
D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26 19
Table 3a
Immunological responses to music: leukocytes.
Study Activity details NK CD4+ T CD8+ T CD4/CD8 ratio CD16 CD3 lymphocytes Memory T
Active participation
Bittman et al. (2001) Group drumming "
Koyama et al. (2009) Group drumming "
Cai et al. (2001) Music therapy v v v v
Live music – experimenter-selected (various styles)
Staricoff et al. (2002) "
Recorded music – participant-selected (various styles)
Leardi et al. (2007) (From choice of genres vs new age) ;
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (stimulating)
Hirokawa and Ohira (2003) Stimulating vs sedative "
Note: Arrows (;or ") indicate significantly higher or lower levels relative to both baseline and control conditions, unless otherwise specified. Arrows (v or ^) indicate that
without music (i.e. in control groups), levels decreased or increased, but with music levels remained constant. Dashes indicate no significant change. Blank fields indicate that
the biomarker was not investigated. Abbreviations: NK, Natural Killer cell count; CD4+ T, T helper cells; CD8+ T, cytotoxic T cells.
The experimenters found an increase only in older, not younger patients.
The experimenters found an increase only for stimulating music, not sedative.
Although cortisol levels decreased in both groups compared to controls, the experimenters found a significantly greater decrease in the group where patients selected
their music from one of four styles compared to the group who listened to new age music.
Table 3b
Immunological responses to music: cytokines.
Study Activity IL-1 IL-1-beta IL-2 IL-4 IL-6 IL-10 IL-12 IL-13 IL-
Active participation
Bittman et al. (2001) Group drumming
Koyama et al. (2009) Group drumming ";
Okada et al. (2009) Music therapy ;
Recorded music – participant-selected (various styles)
Bartlett et al. (1993) "
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (relaxing)
Conrad et al. (2007) ;
Stefano et al. (2004) ;
Kimata (2003) ;
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (stimulating)
Lai et al. (2013) Stimulating vs sedative
cc c
Note: Arrows (;or ") indicate significantly higher or lower levels relative to both baseline and control conditions, unless otherwise specified. Dashes indicate no significant
change. Blank fields indicate that the biomarker was not investigated. Abbreviations: IL, interleukin; TNF-
, tumor necrosis factor alpha; IFN-
, interferon gamma.
The experimenters found results only in the presence of music by Mozart, not Beethoven.
The experimenters found a decrease in older adults, not younger adults.
The experimenters found tried to test 3 interleukins, but levels were all undetectable in the plasma due to breakdown.
The experimenters found an increase for older adults and a decrease for younger adults.
Table 3c
Immunological responses to music: other immune responses.
Study Activity IgA IgE Histamine
Active participation
Suzuki et al. (2005) Music therapy "
Lane (1994) Music therapy "
Kuhn (2002) Singings vs listening to singing "
Recorded music – participant-selected (various styles)
McCraty et al. (1996) (From choice of genres) "
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (relaxing)
Nilsson et al. (2005)
Urakawa and Yokoyama (2004) "
Knight and Rickard (2001) "
Kimata (2003) ;
Kejr et al. (2010) ;
Nomura et al. (2004) ;
Charnetski et al. (1998) "
Recorded music – experimenter-selected (stimulating)
Koelsch et al. (2011) "
Hirokawa and Ohira (2003) Stimulating vs sedative
Note: Arrows (;or ") indicate significantly higher or lower levels relative to both baseline and control conditions, unless otherwise specified. Dashes indicate no significant
change. Blank fields indicate that the biomarker was not investigated. Abbreviations: IgA, Immunoglobulin A; IgE, Immunoglobin E.
The experimenters found the increase to be greater for active rather than passive involvement.
The experiments found an increase when the music was liked, but no change if patients disliked it.
20 D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
note consistent patterns. Immunoglobulin A has been revealed to
be particularly responsive to music, increasing following exposure
to a range of styles of music, including both relaxing and stimulat-
ing music, as well as for both active involvement and simply listen-
ing to recorded music. Similarly, strong patterns can be noted with
respect to cortisol, which repeatedly decreases in response to
relaxing recorded music. There also appear to be patterns in the re-
sponse of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which have been
shown to decrease in response to relaxing recorded music. How-
ever more studies will be needed to confirm this pattern as other
studies have not managed to achieve statistical significance.
With regards to participant vs experimenter-selected music,
changes are being noted in studies involving either scenario, sug-
gesting that immune response is not entirely dependent on per-
sonal choice. However, two studies have demonstrated greater
responses when participants selected their own music (Leardi
et al., 2007 and McCraty et al., 1996 for cortisol and immunoglob-
ulin A respectively). Similarly, there have not been clear differences
in immune responses to stimulating vs relaxing music yet. Where
studies have compared responses, there have been some prelimin-
ary suggestions that stimulating music can cause the reverse reac-
tions to relaxing music in certain biomarkers (e.g. Yamamoto et al.,
2007; Gerra et al., 1998; Hirokawa and Ohira, 2003). But this will
need to be isolated in studies to ascertain the true significance of
this variable, as studies so far have not only changed the tempo
of the music to distinguish between stimulating and sedative
music, but have actually employed completely different genres of
music which brings with it a conflicting variable of personal taste
(e.g. Gerra et al., 1998, testing techno vs classical music), the
influence of which has not yet been properly examined.
A final point of interest is that changes have been observed
across various biomarkers of immune response, including leuko-
cytes, cytokines and immunoglobulins, as well as hormones and
neurotransmitters associated with immune response. This perva-
sive influence of music highlights that there is still much more to
be explored as the vast majority of hormones, neurotransmitters
and immune cells that are possibly involved in music-activated
endocrine and immune pathways have yet to be examined. Overall,
the trend towards positive findings of the effect of music on psy-
choneuroimmunological response strongly supports further inves-
tigation in this field.
4.2. Music, psychoneuroimmunology and stress
Another intriguing pattern that has emerged from this research
is that fifty-six of the sixty-three studies included in this review
discussing the psychoneuroimmunological effects of music linked
this to stress response. Stress is certainly a central area of research
in psychoneuroimmunology. A major meta-analytic study by
Segerstrom and Miller (2004) drew together over 30 years of re-
search and helped to consolidate key findings, modeling pathways
between stress and the immune system and cataloguing the effects
of different types of stress on immune biomarkers. In considering
the significance of stress on health, Cohen et al. (2007) have since
linked it to the onset and progression of chronic diseases such as
cancer. In exploring counterbalances to the effects of stress, Esch
et al. (2003) have outlined the molecular mechanisms underlying
the efficacy of relaxation to demonstrate its significance in the
treatment of stress-related diseases.
Evidence of the use of music as a method of stress relief exists
from 4000 BC and is estimated to stretch back as far as Palaeolithic
times (West, 2000), and many people turn to music to alleviate
their stress without feeling the need for scientific reasoning. But
in recent decades, music has begun to be taken seriously in health-
care settings as research findings have started to link the beneficial
effects of music on stress to a wider effect on health (Haake, 2011).
Many of the studies included in this review link the psychoneu-
roimmunological effects of music into this larger dialogue on mu-
sic and stress.
Indeed, music and stress have been the subject of several sys-
tematic reviews, (e.g. Avers et al., 2007; Austin, 2010; Dileo,
2008). However, the knock-on implications that a reduction of
stress can have on immune function are clearly not a part of the
mainstream dialogue on music and stress, as none of these reviews
even mentioned immune response. Consequently, the links that
the articles in this review are making are important in their contri-
bution to the literature not just on music and psychoneuroimmun-
ology but also music and stress. In particular a few articles stand
out for their particularly insightful examinations of the stress path-
ways and mechanisms involved in psychoneuroimmunological re-
sponse to music.
For example, an interesting debate is between the theories of
Bittman et al. (2005) and both Conrad et al. (2007) and Tabrizi
et al. (2012).Bittman et al. (2005) argue for an approach to stress
response that considers each individual as being unique: instead of
specific genes being up- or down-regulated in response to stress or
relaxation, all humans will have their own unique genetic response
to situations. The authors explain, ‘‘this assumption challenges the
notion that the human stress response is characterized by the uni-
form modulation of each gene in a specific direction’’ (Bittman
et al., 2005, p.39). They demonstrate their theory through showing
different alterations in genetic stress response from thirty-two par-
ticipants all involved in group recreational music making.
In contrast, both Conrad et al. (2007) and Tabrizi et al. (2012)
propose neurohumoral stress pathways common to all humans
in response to relaxing recorded classical music. Focusing on
growth hormone and cortisol respectively, they draw up maps
detailing the influence that these hormones have within the body,
and then test some of the biomarkers that should be affected if
their theories are correct. Following relaxing recorded music inter-
ventions, both are then able to point to which path they believe is
dominant within these maps, exerting the greatest impact on sub-
sequent biomarkers, as well as identify which biomarkers are least
affected, either due to a lack of force from the activating hormone
or the interference of another hormone shutting off the system
(Conrad et al., 2007; Tabrizi et al., 2012). A compromise between
the theories of Bittman et al. (2005) and Conrad et al. (2007)/Tab-
rizi et al. (2012) seems the most likely reality, whereby certain
pathways are often affected by stress or music-induced relaxation,
but the sensitivity of these pathways and how quickly they are
activated may depend on the individual. Alternatively, it could be
that the pathways are common to all, but what constitutes the
strength and type of stress or relaxation to switch them on and
off differs between people; something that Bittman et al. (2005)
concede may have affected their results.
Another interesting debate relating to music, stress and psycho-
neuroimmunology is between Han et al. (2010) and Koelsch et al.
(2011) regarding cardiac responses. Han et al. (2010), claim that
music reduces stress by working to entrain outer symptoms such
as breathing and blood flow, which in turn lead up a chain of action
and cause decreased sympathetic activity. This is a reversal of the
normal ‘top-down’ sequence of events, as discussed by Koelsch
et al. (2011), who argue that psychological effects of music are
channeled through various neurological pathways such as the mes-
olimbic dopaminergic system and the central nucleus of the amyg-
dala before they then exert an influence on hormones, cells and
physiological measures such as blood pressure. The theories of
Koelsch et al. (2011) are more commonplace, and Han et al.
(2010) do not provide enough of a challenge to displace these
dominant theories. However, if more can be explained about the
neurological pathways that cause the entrainment of breathing
and blood flow in response to music, perhaps we will discover that
D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26 21
a bi-directional model is at play here: for example, whilst neurons
are carrying messages through the brain and stimulating the re-
lease of neurotransmitters and hormones that activate the para-
sympathetic system, causing our heart rates to slow, it could also
be that motor signals in the cortex are causing our heart rates to
entrain, which helps us to switch from the sympathetic to para-
sympathetic systems, which switches off the release of catechola-
mines and inhibits their neurological feedback.
The studies in this review propose intriguing links between mu-
sic, stress and psychoneuroimmunology which have the potential
to change how music and stress are researched. Certainly, this is
a promising avenue for future research, and it will be important
to ascertain in future studies whether the psychoneuroimmuno-
logical effects of stress are always linked to stress pathways.
However, this discussion leads us onto some of the challenges
to research into music and psychoneuroimmunology which can
be noted from these articles. Given the growing interest in this to-
pic evidenced by the number of articles written, it is pertinent to
explore these challenges in approach and methodology to current
research which are emerging from the literature and affecting
studies in this field, to see how they can be addressed and future
research facilitated. Three challenges in particular have been noted
and will be discussed in more detail.
4.3. Challenges facing research
4.3.1. The mechanisms of music
Studies such as Bittman et al. (2005) Conrad et al. (2007),
Tabrizi et al. (2012), Han et al. (2010) and Koelsch et al. (2011)
are amongst a small minority that actually discuss precise
pathways possibly involved in the psychoneuroimmunological re-
sponse to music. Instead, this review has highlighted a general lack
of discussion on the neuroimmunological mechanisms behind the
effects of music. This could account for the confusion voiced by
certain researchers, such as Gillen et al. (2008), who expressed
skepticism about the ‘adequacy of theories in this area’ (Gillen
et al., 2008, p.24). Only eighteen articles included in this review
discuss the pathways by which music might have achieved its
neurological and biological impact. Of these, two merely quote
theories from other studies without using their results to expand
the knowledge base (Kreutz et al., 2004; Lai and Li, 2011). And
one contains non-specific theories, which are neither expanded
nor tested (Stuhlmiller et al., 2003, which also contains a misquo-
tation of Boso et al., 2006). Lai et al. (2013) propose a model of
cytokine circuits in the body, but unfortunately cytokine levels
were undetectable in the samples taken, which means they were
unable to confirm or negate their theory. (It should be noted that
their study is also not, as it claims, the first study of the effects
of music on cytokines; see Conrad et al. (2007)). This leaves just fif-
teen articles, including the five already discussed, exploring the
mechanisms behind music’s impact, in varying levels of detail.
Moving forwards, future research should focus more on tracing
some of these pathways, as it is new theories and insights into the
mechanisms of music that drive understanding forward, as they
give a deeper explanation of the effect of music on the brain and
the immune system. This in turn helps both in considering the ex-
tent of the impact that music is able to have, and in guiding the de-
sign of music projects in healthcare settings to enable this impact
to be felt to maximum effect.
4.3.2. Singular approaches
This challenge is possibly tied into another challenge regarding
the way that the psychoneuroimmunological effects of music are
being approached. Despite there being sixty-three studies into
the effect of music on immune markers, only twenty-two of the
articles actually discussed the immunological significance of the
biomarkers being tested in any detail. Of the remaining studies,
thirteen just referenced that the biomarkers they were testing
were components of the immune system without any explanation
of the significance of the biomarkers tested; how they are pro-
duced or what effects they have on the rest of the body. And
twenty-eight other studies made no mention of immune function
at all, and simply cited their biomarkers as stress markers.
As an example, this is clearly seen in discussions of cortisol, the
most common biomarker investigated. Twenty-one of the twenty-
nine studies in cortisol consider it without any reference to how it
is produced in the body, what chain of events its increase or de-
crease triggers, or its impact on the immune system. It is simply ci-
ted as a stress hormone. These studies are clearly approaching
cortisol from an angle of wanting to explore the impact of music
on stress in more detail rather than from the angle of wanting to
examine the psychoneuroimmunological effects of music. The
studies are valid in their assessments and certainly contribute to
our knowledge of music’s stress-relieving properties. But by omit-
ting any mention of the endocrine or immune systems, they fail to
contextualize the full significance of their results.
A more in-depth understanding of the immune functions of dif-
ferent biomarkers would add another dimension to studies simply
using them as a stress marker, as it would help to show the impact
that a change in their levels can have on the body and highlight the
importance of using music to achieve this effect. This could be
facilitated by a greater awareness of the psychoneuroimmunolog-
ical effects of music. Indeed, there is evidence that this is happen-
ing, as of the twenty-two articles that have explicitly explored the
psychoneuroimmunological effects of music, sixteen have been
within the last decade and ten of those within the last five years.
And seventeen studies examined biomarkers on different levels
(neurotransmitters, hormones, immune cells and chemicals) in
conjunction. This is promising, since research of this nature dem-
onstrates an understanding of the complex neurological processes
required to produce an endocrinological or immunological effect
and shows an increasing tendency towards a multidisciplinary ap-
proach to research in this field.
4.3.3. Definition of terms
A final but crucial challenge to future research is with regards to
the way terms are being defined and tested. For example, where it
is mentioned, stress is not always being precisely discussed. In par-
ticular distinctions are generally not being made between acute
and chronic stress. This is despite the fact that these two types of
stress can have very different effects on the immune system (e.g.
Dhabhar and McEwen, 1997; Kudielka and Wüst, 2010), and de-
spite the fact that research has demonstrated that the specific
way stress is perceived (e.g. visual, sensory or auditory) and the
method of coping used (e.g. active vs passive coping strategies)
can alter biological response (Lei and Chen, 2009; Keay and Ban-
dler, 2001). Future studies will need to take this into consideration
in the formulation of their hypotheses and study design.
With regards to the way music is used in these studies, this re-
view demonstrates a tremendous breadth of modes of musical
intervention ranging from recorded music to live concerts, music
therapy, individual music lessons and group workshops. However,
there is a prevailing tendency in these studies simply to categorize
the activity as ‘recorded music’ or ‘music making’, for example, as
though the activity can be taken as a single entity. This approach
means that the simple term ‘music’ is in fact hiding a number of
key variables any one of which could be responsible for psycho-
neuroimmunolooical changes, such as musical content, physical
engagement, social involvement and personal response.
Furthermore, a number of articles categorize activities incor-
rectly. For example, Conrad et al. (2007), Peng et al. (2009) and
White (1992) among others apply the term ‘music therapy’ to
22 D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
the use of pre-selected recorded music. In fact, music therapy is de-
fined by the World Federation of Music Therapy as psychothera-
peutically oriented: ‘the use of music and/or musical elements by
a qualified music therapist with a client or group ... to facilitate
and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilization,
expression, organization and other therapeutic objectives’ (Wi-
gram et al., 2002, p. 30, italics added).
Only four articles attempt to compare different modes of
delivery. Kreutz et al. (2004) found a greater relaxation response
when a choir actively sang a piece in contrast to simply listening
to a recording of it. Both Lai et al. (2012a) and Burns et al. (2001)
compared listening to recorded music with music therapy
interventions, finding almost identical results between the two
groups in terms of blood pressure and STAI, and immunoglobulin
A and cortisol respectively. However, it is not known whether
other biomarkers would have been affected differently. The most
thorough comparison, carried out by Kuhn (2002), found
significantly higher immunoglobulin A measurements for active
participation rather than passive listening. She theorizes, in line
with Bartlett et al. (1993), that, during active participation, the
music produced takes on a more personal significance, triggering
a greater emotional response and consequently greater endocrine
Further studies comparing different forms of musical interven-
tion could help to clarify the neurological pathways being activated,
enabling researchers to trace the course of the psychoneuroimmu-
nological response. Furthermore, if future studies carry out more
thorough comparisons of the extent of the psychological and
immunological effects of various music interventions (e.g. live vs
recorded vs therapy vs education) against one another, this could
have important implications for how health settings such as hospi-
tals decide to implement music programs. If results continue to
point towards active participation as the most effective, it may even
help provide an incentive for the financial investment in participa-
tory music interventions in healthcare settings.
5. A new model
This discussion highlights three challenges which may hinder
research into the psychoneuroimmunology of music. As is evident,
not all studies are facing all three challenges, and many are navi-
gating between them very successfully. Nevertheless, it is sug-
gested that a new model may be of use as a working framework
for future research with the aim of helping more studies overcome
potential methodological problems.
In light of the relatively few articles discussed in Section 4.2.1
that have proposed precise pathways connecting our perception
and reaction to music, it would be premature to suggest a model
that attempts to catalog in detail the relevant psychological, neuro-
logical and immunological mechanisms involved. Instead, the re-
sults of this review suggest that two things would be of benefit
from this new model:
1. A way of giving more specific details of the variables involved in
studies in terms of both the mode of music delivery and percep-
tion and the types of stress being experienced by participants.
2. A broader view of how systems including the nervous, endo-
crine, and immune systems interact when a person is exposed
to music, encouraging studies to situate their findings within
the context of the body, identify the systems involved, and con-
sider the pathways and mechanisms being activated.
We would like to propose a model to serve these purposes, pre-
sented in Fig. 2. The connections drawn in this model have all been
demonstrated in research studies (see notes to Fig. 2). However,
because the model draws together information from a number of
fields, these connections have not, to the authors’ knowledge, been
synthesized in a single diagram before. It is this synthesis that it is
hoped will aid the design of future studies and facilitate the anal-
ysis of their results.
5.1. Independent variables
The model proposes that the inputs or variables of each study
should be more specifically cataloged and terms such as ‘music’
and ‘stress’ need to be broken down.
There are two suggested categories for the types of stress expe-
rienced by participants in studies; either naturally-occurring or in-
duced for the purposes of the study (Pastorino and Doyle-Portillo,
2011; Lamb, 1979):
Psychological stress (including social, personal or environmen-
tal changes, daily/microstressors and ambient stressors).
Physiological stress (both within the body, such as viruses and
bacteria, and outside the body, including exercise, injury, sur-
gery, changes in outside temperature, exposure to chemical’s
These two categories are then further subdivided into acute and
chronic stress, following research demonstrating a difference in
biological effect (e.g. Dhabhar and McEwen, 1997; Kudielka and
Wüst, 2010).
The model then proposes four different categories for how mu-
sic can affect us (Peretz and Zatorre, 2003; Hallam, 2010; Hodges,
The sound of music, as it is perceived by our auditory system.
(Studies should specify key details that may be relevant, such
as the tempo of pieces of music, their tonality and their
Physical involvement (including the bodily actions required to
produce the sound, as in singing or playing an instrument, as
well as any strong musical vibrations that may have been per-
ceived by participants).
Social engagement (including whether participants socialized
with others as part of the study, or reported an increase in
confidence, pride or self-esteem).
Personal response (including whether participants were famil-
iar with the music; whether they liked or disliked it; or whether
it elicited an emotional response).
5.2. Dependent variables
The central part of the model linking together various neurolog-
ical, psychological and physiological systems draws on research in
the field of psychoneuroimmunology from the last decade (refer-
ences provided in the figure). In line with findings of Solomon
(1987), among others, these links have been modeled as bidirec-
tional. The aim of this part of the model is to facilitate the study
of psychological, neurological and biochemical pathways involved
in the processing of and response to music.
This could involve guiding the design of future studies to con-
sider how music is being chosen and delivered to participants in
studies and encourage the inclusion of a range of tests (both psy-
chological and biological). It could also make it possible to compare
whether specific systems within the body are particularly sensitive
to the effects of music and allow researchers to compare which
independent variables (stress and music) produce which results.
D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26 23
Sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 of this paper discussed
The tendency among studies for music to be tested on specific
individual biomarkers without a consideration of how this fits
into the overall interactions between the systems.
The limited number of papers examining in detail which path-
ways had caused biomarkers to be altered and how the
alteration of each biomarker might have impacted on other
By providing a framework showing some of the broad interac-
tions that have been discussed in the psychoneuroimmunology
literature of the previous few decades, this model aims to encour-
age discussion in these two areas, suggest other systems and
groups of biomarkers that it may be of value to researchers to test,
and hopefully increase the literature in facets of music and psycho-
neuroimmunology that are currently understudied.
6. Conclusion
In 2002, Nunez et al. (2002, p. 1048) reported that there was ‘lit-
tle information on the immunological response to ... music’. This
paper has demonstrated a clear increase in such literature over
the past decade (40 studies 2003–2013, compared to 22 between
1993 and 2003, and only 1 study prior to this). The effect of music
on a number of biomarkers is now well established, and many
studies on other biomarkers are demonstrating promising patterns
that, it is hoped, will be clarified through further study. The impor-
tant role played by stress pathways in producing an immune re-
sponse to music has been highlighted by this study, and further
research will hopefully give a clearer insight into which types of
stress are most responsive to music and how musical variables
can best be manipulated to reduce stress levels.
Three challenges facing the advancement of research into music
and psychoneuroimmunology have been identified, and in light of
this, a new model has been proposed to act as a framework for the
design of future research and analysis of results. In line with this
model, we recommend that future research should give clear
descriptions of the types and length of stress experienced by study
participants and the aural, physical, social and personal perception
of the music involved; studies should consider groups of
biomarkers in conjunction with one another in order to assess
the knock-on effect that the alterations of hormones and immune
cells have on each other and on the body; and studies should pro-
pose and test models of the psychological, neurological and immu-
nological mechanisms causing these effects. This will hopefully
provide a more comprehensive understanding of the influence of
Inevitably, there are limitations to this review. We have included
all studies found to satisfy the selection criteria, regardless of
whether their results were statistically significant or not, as identi-
fying biomarkers that music cannot alter is also an important task.
Nevertheless, there is a potential for publication bias towards posi-
tive results, which may mean that studies producing negative or
inconclusive results have not been distributed, nor included in this
review. Our findings should also be interpreted in light of the con-
straints we imposed on the present review. First, this review only
considered new studies, so there are some articles theorizing on
the mechanisms behind music’s psychoneuroimmunological ef-
fects that have not been discussed. Nevertheless, it is hoped that
as these theories become better known, they will be tested as part
of future research projects. Secondly, every attempt was made in
the keyword searches to find all studies relevant to this review.
However, due to the diverse disciplines involved in psychoneuro-
immunology, it is possible that studies examining some aspect of
music’s impact on the immune system confined themselves to a
more discipline-specific vocabulary rather than including keywords
associated with psychoneuroimmunology so were not brought to
attention in the screening process.
Research into the psychoneuroimmunology of music has the
potential to influence our holistic models of healthcare. If music
is found to have a significant effect on the immune system’s ability
to fight disease, it will have a profound impact on its incorporation
into healthcare settings including hospital waiting rooms; proce-
dures such as surgery; and treatments such as chemotherapy and
psychotherapy; as well as placing a larger significance and respon-
sibility on our day-to-day consumption of music. This could not
just affect the domain of medicine, but also the roles of musicians
and the missions of arts organizations. It is hoped that by taking
stock of previous research in this review, future studies will be
aided and encouraged, increasing our insight into an intriguing
Autonomic Nervous
System (ANS)
Central Nervous
System (CNS)
Physical aspects
of music
movement etc
Social aspects
of music
Eg social networks,
self-esteem etc.
Personal responses
to music
Eg familiarity, likes/
The sound of music
Eg tempo, tonality,
c d
e f
Fig. 2. A model of the system interactions involved in the psychoneuroimmunological response to music. Note:
Cacioppo and Decety (2009);
Andreassi (2013);
Critchley (2005);
Besedovsky and Rey (1996);
Nance and Sanders (2007);
Sternberg (2006);
Ulrich-Lai and Herman (2009);
Turner (1994);
Jänig (1989);
Lamb (1979);
Peretz and Zatorre (2003);
Hallam (2010);
Hodges (2008).
24 D. Fancourt et al. / Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 36 (2014) 15–26
Conflict of interest statement
All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
This research was kindly supported by the AMBER Trust, Jessie’s
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... These findings suggest that MBI may promote an anti-inflammatory response after injury, as indicated by the increase in CD-163+ cells. Data from clinical and pre-clinical studies suggest that MBIs hold psychoneuroimmunological effects albeit, the mechanisms are poorly understood (Fancourt et al., 2014). Clinically, various forms of MBIs such as passive music listening to participatory music therapy reduced levels of leukocytes (Bittman et al., 2001;Hirokawa and Ohira, 2003;Leardi et al., 2007;Koyama et al., 2009) and cytokines (Stefano et al., 2004;Okada et al., 2009;Koyama et al., 2009). ...
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments that negatively impact life quality for millions of individuals. Because of its pernicious effects, numerous pharmacological interventions have been evaluated to attenuate the TBI-induced deficits or to reinstate function. While many such pharmacotherapies have conferred benefits in the laboratory, successful translation to the clinic has yet to be achieved. Given the individual, medical, and societal burden of TBI, there is an urgent need for alternative approaches to attenuate TBI sequelae and promote recovery. Music based interventions (MBIs) may hold untapped potential for improving neurobehavioral and cognitive recovery after TBI as data in normal, non-TBI, rats show plasticity and augmented cognition. Hence, the aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that providing a MBI to adult rats after TBI would improve cognition, neurobehavior, and histological endpoints. Adult male rats received a moderate-to-severe controlled cortical impact injury (2.8 mm impact at 4 m/s) or sham surgery (n = 10–12 per group) and 24 h later were randomized to classical Music or No Music (i.e., ambient room noise) for 3 h/day from 19:00 to 22:00 h for 30 days (last day of behavior). Motor (beam-walk), cognitive (acquisition of spatial learning and memory), anxiety-like behavior (open field), coping (shock probe defensive burying), as well as histopathology (lesion volume), neuroplasticity (BDNF), and neuroinflammation (Iba1, and CD163) were assessed. The data showed that the MBI improved motor, cognitive, and anxiety-like behavior vs. No Music (p's < 0.05). Music also reduced cortical lesion volume and activated microglia but increased resting microglia and hippocampal BDNF expression. These findings support the hypothesis and provide a compelling impetus for additional preclinical studies utilizing MBIs as a potential efficacious rehabilitative therapy for TBI.
... Sound treatment could influence the activity of the T lymphocytes and promote the secretion of cytokines, such as IL-1, IL-2, and IFN-γ, thereby affecting the animals' immune systems and animal welfare [53,54]. IFN-γ and IL-1β are two important indicators for the status of the immune system. ...
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The microbiota in gastrointestinal tracts is recognized to play a pivotal role in the health of their hosts. Music and noise are prevalent environmental factors in human society and animal production and are reported to impact their welfare and physiological conditions; however, the information on the relationship between the microbiota, physiological status, and sound is limited. This study investigated the impact of music and white noise exposure in mice through 16s rRNA gene sequencing, enzyme assay, and qPCR. The results demonstrate that white noise induced oxidative stress in animals by decreasing serum SOD and GSH-PX activity while increasing LDH activity and MDA levels (p < 0.05). Conversely, no oxidative stress was observed in the music treatment group. The relative gene expression of IFN-γ and IL-1β decreased in the white noise group compared to the music and control groups. The 16s rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed that Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Verrucomicrobia, and Proteobacteria were dominant among all the groups. Furthermore, the proportion of Firmicutes increased in the music treatment group but decreased in the white noise treatment group compared to the control group. In conclusion, white noise has detrimental impacts on the gut microbiota, antioxidant activity, and immunity of mice, while music is potentially beneficial.
... Emerging evidence has shown that engagement in artistic activities such as musical activities can elicit positive feelings [26, 6] and in uence hormonal and immune system activity underlying stress responses [27]. Positive biological stress responses to musical activities, particularly choir singing, have been reported with respect to a range of biological outcomes including sCort [28, [30][31][32], and sIgA [29] in various naturalistic settings with healthy and clinical populations [reviewed in 33,34]. However, very little is known about whether musical and other arts activities have a similarly bene cial biological effect in children and adolescents with MD. ...
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Mental disorders (MD) among children and adolescents are usually associated with over-activation of stress response pathways and poor mood state, quality of life and wellbeing. Arts interventions may help to reduce biological stress and improve psychological outcomes in this population. We determined the effects of four arts activities on salivary cortisol, immunoglobulin-A, mood state, quality of life, and wellbeing in young people with MD. Forty-two in- and out-patients in child and adolescent psychiatry (aged 12–18) were engaged in short-term arts activities (singing, textile design, drama, clownery) conducted by professional artists, delivered through five consecutive 90-minute daily sessions in one week. Cortisol, immunoglobulin-A, and mood state were assessed daily pre-post interventions. Quality of life and well-being were measured pre-post 5-day-interventions. Over five days, the arts activities apart from singing significantly affected reductions in cortisol (textile design − 0.81, 95% CI -1.48 to -0.14; drama − 0.76, 95% CI -1.28 to -0.24; clownery − 0.74, 95% CI -1.47 to -0.01). Textile design led to significant improvement in alertness (4.08; 95% CI 0.77 to 7.39), and singing (2.20, 95% CI -0.55 to 4.94) and textile design (2.89, 95% CI -0.39 to 6.18) tended to influence a positive change in mood . Quality of life measurements increased significantly in singing (5.49, 95% CI 1.05 to 9.92); well-being and immunoglobulin-A showed no significant changes. Arts activities may provide a complementary solution to reduce stress and improve mood state in young people with MD. Further investigation is needed to confirm the results and explain the differences in psycho-biological responses.
... According to the musical features, studies have compared the cognitive effect of arousing musical pieces (characterized by high intensity, tempo and polyphonic density, major mode, unexpected changes in melody, use of instruments with strident timbres, for example Symphony No. 70, D major by Joseph Haydn) and relaxing musical pieces (characterized by low intensity, tempo and polyphonic density, minor mode, expected changes in melody, use of instruments with warm timbres, for example Pachelbel Canon in D major ;Chanda & Levitin, 2013;Fancourt et al., 2014;Juslin & Västfjäll, 2008;Knight & Rickard, 2001). For example, N. S. Rickard et al. (2012) exposed participants to relaxing or arousing music during or after the presentation of a story with emotional content, and they found that subjects exposed to relaxing music had diminished emotional memory. ...
... Relaxing and stimulating, both types of music lowered cortisol hormone levels i.e., responsible for stress but some studies depict lowering of cortisol happens only due to relaxing music (Ramalingam et al., 2022). Fancourt et al., 2014 found that stimulating music has a positive impact on other hormones like growth hormone (somatotropin) and adrenocorticotropic hormone, while during relaxing music these hormones remain unaltered. ...
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MICROBIOLOGICAL HAZARD ASSOCIATED WITH RAW VEGETABLES Abstract: Fresh vegetables as a source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber are an important part of a balanced diet. On the other hand, since they do not undergo heat treatment, ingestion of fresh vegetables in the form of salads can be the cause of poisoning caused by the microorganisms present. Microorganisms can be found on and in fresh vegetables due to contamination during growth and harvesting, and are most often related to microorganisms originating from the soil, irrigation water, and natural fertilizers. Another way is contamination during handling, i.e. during contact with previously contaminated surfaces or hands. Some of the food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7 or Listeria monocytogenes can lead to serious illness or death in vulnerable populations. An increased number of saprophytic microorganisms can during the storage period impair the stability of the product and lead to unacceptable color change, odor, and rotting of vegetables. Additionally, already contaminated vegetables can cause secondary contamination of surfaces, equipment, and hands of employees who handle them. This paper provides an overview of microbiological risks associated with fresh vegetables and ways to reduce negative consequences. Keywords: Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., raw vegetables
Purpose The annual holiday party is a long-standing tradition in many organizations, yet academic research has largely left the holiday party unexamined. The present study sheds light on this significant social event by exploring what factors help differentiate successful events from less successful ones. Design/methodology/approach First, the authors developed a taxonomy of characteristics of good holiday parties using a critical incident technique in which stories of holiday party experiences were analyzed following a mixed-method approach. Second, the authors quantitatively examined the relationships between these characteristics and three outcomes, including perceived organizational support, positive interpersonal interactions, and experienced fun. Findings The critical incident analysis revealed 11 key characteristics that distinguish good from bad holiday parties. Primary findings from the quantitative study are that games and activities, music, good food, and notable positive leader behavior are key characteristics of more successful events. Research limitations/implications As the data were obtained using a traditional survey methodology, further research would be valuable that adopts an experience sampling methodology to capture employee experiences, perceptions, and feelings about holiday parties in real-time before, during, and after an event has occurred. Practical implications From an event planning standpoint, this research provides a framework for designing holiday parties and provides evidence as to which features matter most. From a strategic leadership perspective, this research signals that different features of holiday parties can influence different outcomes. Originality/value Beyond merely identifying important characteristics, this research provides a framework for further research on holiday parties and identifies theories that can be used in future research to explore the mechanisms that influence how and under what conditions holiday parties impact employees’ experiences at work.
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Can music induce emotions directly and, if so, are these emotions experienced similarly to emotions arising in other contexts? This chapter analyzes these questions from the perspective of neuroscience. Despite the fact that music does not appear to have an obvious survival value for modern adults, research indicates that listening to music does activate autonomic, subcortical, and cortical systems in a manner similar to other emotional stimuli. It is proposed that music may be so intimately connected with emotional systems because caregivers use music to communicate emotionally with their infants before they are able to understand language. In particular, it examines whether music engages the autonomic nervous system, sub-cortical emotion networks, and cortical areas involved in the emotional processing of other types of stimuli. It also investigates whether emotional reactions to music are simply cultural conventions by asking whether and how infants process musical emotions.
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To compare the effectiveness of music to that of diazepam in reducing preoperative anxiety. Patients were randomized to 2 groups to receive diazepam or listen to music on the day of surgery and the previous day. Just before the operation, anxiety was assessed with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure were also recorded. Two hundred seven patients were enrolled. No significant differences in any of the outcome measures (anxiety, cortisol level, heart rate, or blood pressure) were found between the 2 groups (music vs sedative). Our findings indicate that music is as effective as sedatives for reducing preoperative anxiety.
The Autonomic nervous system, which innervates primarily the smooth musculature of all organs, the heart and the glands, mediates the neuronal regulation of the internal milieu. The actions of this system, as its name implies, are in general not under direct voluntary control. These characteristics distinguish the Autonomic nervous system from the somatic nervous system, which mediates afferent and efferent communication with the environment and, for the most part, is subject to voluntary control and accessible to consciousness.
The autonomic nervous system, innervating the smooth musculature of all organs, the heart and the glands, mediates the neuronal regulation of the internal milieu. The actions of this system, as its name implies, are in general not under direct voluntary control. These characteristics distinguish the autonomic nervous system from the somatic nervous system, which mediates afferent and efferent communication with the environment and, for the most part, is subject to voluntary control and accessible to consciousness.
This article explores bodily responses to music, i.e., physiological and physical responses. Bodily responses to music are among the core experiences of music. They are hugely complex, with a myriad of response types interwoven into the fabric of thoughts, feelings, and social context. Bodily responses are highly idiosyncratic, as each person brings a unique self to a music-listening situation. Researchers have made significant strides in ferreting out the details of these responses, and, in collaboration with practitioners, have made progress in utilizing this knowledge, particularly in music therapy and music-medicine applications. With all this, however, the richness and complexity of the human experience leaves much yet to be discovered.
Although research in music psychology, education and therapy has expanded exponentially in the 21st century, there is something of a 'black hole' around which much of the discourse circles: music itself. While writers have largely been occupied with what people think about musical engagement, the little musical analysis that exists has tended to be at a low level compared to the sophisticated non-musical exploration that is present. This highlights the tenuous connection between musical enquiry in the context of the humanities and that occurring within the social sciences, the one exception being the partial intersection of music theory and psychology. Here, however, progress has largely been in one direction, with something of the objectivity that characterizes psychological research reading across to music analysis, and taking the form of what has been called 'empirical musicology'. This book takes a further, reciprocal step, in which certain of the techniques of empirical musicology (in particular, the author's 'zygonic' theory) are used to inform thinking in the domains of music-psychological, educational and therapeutic research. A new, interdisciplinary sphere of endeavour is sketched out, for which the term 'applied musicology' is coined. The book adopts a phenomenological, inductive approach, using the analysis of hundreds of real-life examples of musical engagement and interaction to build new theories of musical intentionality and influence, and to shed new light on our understanding of aspects of music perception and cognition. This book is intended to lay the foundations upon which a new category of interdisciplinary work will be built.
This chapter examines the influences of musical activities such as listening, singing, or dancing on the endocrine system. The underlying assumption is that psychological processes associated with musical experiences lead to changes in the hormonal systems of brain and body. It begins with a brief introduction to general questions of psychoneuroendocrinology as well as to relevant hormonal systems, followed by an overview of empirical studies, which have begun to investigate hormonal responses to musical stimulation and musical activities. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future work that will be derived from initial evidence showing that music can be seen as a psychoactive stimulant inducing physiological effects that are sometime similar to those produced by pharmacological substances.
This chapter reports the neurophysiological, neurological, and psychoacoustic evidence to support the contentions that pitch relationships among tones in the vertical dimension influence consonance perception and consonance cannot be explained solely by the absence of roughness. It introduces the terminology and basic psychoacoustics pertinent to the subsequent discussion of experimental results. It then shows that the harmonic relationships of tones in musical intervals are represented in the temporal discharge patterns of auditory nerve fibres. It critically reevaluates the psychoacoustic literature concerning the consonance of isolated intervals and chords, paying particular attention to the relationships among interval width, roughness detection thresholds, and consonance ratings and the predictions of roughness-based computational models about relative consonance as a function of spectral energy distribution. Finally, it describes the evidence that impairments in consonance perception following auditory cortex lesions are more likely to result from deficits in pitch perception than to deficits in roughness perception. This evidence highlights the dependence of so-called low-level perceptual processing on the integrity of the auditory cortex, the highest station in the auditory nervous system.