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The Effect of Music on the Production of Neurotransmitters, Hormones, Cytokines, and Peptides A Review

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Abstract

Research on the effects of music exposure on the release of biochemical messengers is an expanding field. The importance of understanding the influence of music on messenger production is a means of explaining behavioral reactions through physiological mechanisms. Signaling molecules that prove integral for important regulatory functions include neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, and peptides. Thus music elicits responses promoting positive emotions, alleviation of stress, and immune function. Study of the production of the messengers reveals the connection between the mind and the body. The purpose of the review is to provide a closer look into the effectual relationship between music and production of these messengers by providing literature and analysis.
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2012 4: 40 originally published online 22 July 2011Music and Medicine Abhishek Gangrade
Review
The Effect of Music on the Production of Neurotransmitters, Hormones, Cytokines, and Peptides: A
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The Effect of Music on the Production
of Neurotransmitters, Hormones,
Cytokines, and Peptides: A Review
Abhishek Gangrade, BS
1
Abstract
Research on the effects of music exposure on the release of biochemical messengers is an expanding field. The importance
of understanding the influence of music on messenger production is a means of explaining behavioral reactions through
physiological mechanisms. Signaling molecules that prove integral for important regulatory functions include neurotransmitters,
hormones, cytokines, and peptides. Thus music elicits responses promoting positive emotions, alleviation of stress, and immune
function. Study of the production of the messengers reveals the connection between the mind and the body. The purpose of the
review is to provide a closer look into the effectual relationship between music and production of these messengers by
providing literature and analysis.
Keywords
cytokines, hormones, music medicine, neurotransmitters, peptides
Music is widely regarded as a means of enjoyment and
entertainment. However, music has also been used toward
improving the well-being of patients. While the brain inter-
prets music, successive biochemical reactions are induced
within the body. Evidence indicates that music plays a role
in activating pleasure-seeking areas of the brain that become
stimulated by food, sex, and drugs.
1
Most research on the biological effects of music has revolved
around studies involving brain mapping and physiological para-
meters such as heart rate and blood pressure, venturing to
explain the cognitive processes behind music appreciation, stress
relief, and manifestations of emotions. In all the reviewed stud-
ies, pathways for translation of music inception in the brain to
changes in production of signaling molecules have been
hypothesized to explain the mechanisms. Through production
of messengers such as hormones, neurotransmitters, cytokines,
and proteins, music elicits biological responses to stress, emo-
tion, and immune function.
The messengers within the body range from simple to
complex molecules that provide functions crucial to survival.
Hormones certainly prove necessary for proper physiological
growth and development. Neurotransmitters are messengers
that regulate the activation or inhibition of neurons. Cytokines
are imperative toward maintenance of immune function and
growth. Proteins, such as antibodies, have many diverse roles
ranging from cell composition to tissue integrity.
2
The cited literature state the case for music as a stimulator or
inhibitor of messenger pathways in the body. To the author’s
knowledge, no review or summary on the effect of music on
production of all 4 aforementioned messengers has been
attempted thus far. I will first incorporate important findings
relating music to messenger production. I follow with a presen-
tation of the remaining objectives to be accomplished in this
field of research.
Music represents a noninvasive approach as opposed to
treatments such as hormone or cytokine therapies and medica-
tions. Further research on the effects of music may reveal the
precise functions of biochemical messengers. Today, an
emphasishasbeenplacedonpharmacological substances to
serveasremediesforpainorhyperactivity when music pro-
vides the simplest solution as an easily accessible form with-
out any known debilitating effects. For example, nicotine in
cigarettes stimulates production of dopamine, a neurotrans-
mitter involved in providing pleasure.
3
Music also has similar
effects on the dopaminergic pathway.
4,5
As a result, music
may pose as an effective substitute for other supplements to
help addicts quit smoking.
Music characterized by genres and musical elements evoke
distinct patterns of messenger production. Music of Johann
Strauss caused rises in atrial filling fraction and atrial natriure-
tic peptide and falls in cortisol and tissue-type plasminogen
1
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Abhishek Gangrade, University of Florida, 536 Serenity Place, Lake Mary, FL
32746, USA
Email: abhishekgan8@gmail.com
Music and Medicine
4(1) 40-43
ªThe Author(s) 2012
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activator (t-PA). Prolactin, cortisol, noradrenaline, and t-PA
concentrations decreased after listening to the music of H.
W. Henze. Ravi Shankar’s music resulted in lowered concen-
trations of cortisol, noradrenaline, and t-PA.
6-8
Listening to
techno music was found to alter levels of b-endorphin, adreno-
corticotropic hormone (ACTH), norepinephrine, growth
hormone, prolactin, and cortisol in healthy people.
9,10
Criti-
cally ill patients who listened to Mozart’s slow piano sonatas
had increased growth hormone and decreased interleukin (IL)
6 levels.
11
Appreciation of a mixed selection of rock music
increased salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA).
12
The effects
of major and minor modes
13
and intensity of music
14
on
cortisol production have also been studied.
Different methods of measuring the concentrations were
implemented. Almost all the studies mentioned involve blood
drawn from the participants and tested for cytokines, Igs, hor-
mones, and neurotransmitters by immunoassays, such as
radioimmunossays and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays
(ELISA) to determine the concentrations. Dopamine levels
were measured by observing fluorescence intensities with a
brain-mapping analyzer.
5
High-pressure liquid chromatogra-
phy (HPLC) was used to measure norepinephrine and
epinephrine.
9,11,15
In some studies, participants were administered music to
assess the possible relationship of perception and levels of par-
ticular messengers. Platelet serotonin is lower in participants
exposed to unpleasant music than those who listened to plea-
sant music.
16
Cortisol, IL-1b, and IL-10 levels did not change
in those listening to preferred music but changed in those
exposed to relaxing music.
17,18
Both morphine and IL-6
decreased in patients exposed to preferred music, leading to
lower blood pressure.
18
The clinical area has displayed promising effects of music in
battling specific conditions. Music decreases plasma concentra-
tions of cortisol, epinephrine, and t-PA in patients exposed to
regional anesthesia.
19,20
Music also is known to aid in fighting
cerebrovascular disease by activation of parasympathetic nervous
system, lowering concentrations of IL-6, tumor necrosis factor
(TNF), adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
21
Adrenocorticotropic hor-
mone, cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline also have been
measured before and after gastroscopy.
22
Biochemical messenger
production has been found influential in providing a calming
effect in elderly patients with Alzheimer dementia.
21,23,24
Music has proven effective in improving the immune
function. Decreased corticosteroid production correlates with
the effect of music on immunity.
25
Rises in concentrations of
salivary IgA
12,25-29
and IL-1
30
are associated with falls in sali-
vary and plasma cortisol levels, respectively. In regard to coun-
tering the harmful effects of stress on immunity, music has
even proven to be as helpful as pharmacological treatments,
such as benzodiazepines and 5 hydroxytryptamine (HT) ago-
nists. There is also evidence that music may lead to production
of hormones and neurotransmitters that participate in T cell
proliferation and antitumor signaling.
31,32
Explanations for certain phenomena, such as learning, have
become possible with knowledge of the effect of music on the
production of messengers. For example, music influences
production of steroids including cortisol, testosterone, and
estrogen as well as their receptor proteins, leading to neurogen-
esis and improvements in learning in the brain.
33
Music may
regulate the production of neurotrophins in the hypothalamus,
causing reduction in stress and improved learning as well.
34
Not all studies concerned have produced results indicating
correlations between psychological and physiological out-
comes. Although patients felt less anxious after listening to
music, they revealed no differences in concentrations of no-
repinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol, or ACTH.
15,35
Some results
have been found to conflict with each other. Music therapy
increased adrenaline in one study
36
but decreased adrenaline
in another,
21
a result of the fact that music therapy protocols
vary from one administrator to another.
Further research is needed to explain with more specificity
the relationship between the psychological and physiological
manifestations of music. It has long been considered that phy-
siology affects psychology in a unidirectional manner. However,
some evidence indicates otherwise as oxytocin production is
increased by listening to music. Thus, psychological mechan-
isms influence physiological processes. More studies are needed
to clarify such cause and effect relationships.
37
Most studies simply observed the direct involvement of
music on messenger production by allowing participants to lis-
ten to music before measuring changes in concentrations. How-
ever, some studies combined both music and treatment with a
substance in order to examine the effect of the substance which
was either accentuated or reversed by music or vice versa.
4,37
For example, thrills in listeners are intensified by the opiate
receptor antagonist, naloxone hydrochloride. The thrills of
music could thus be linked to endogenous opioids.
38
However,
other studies state that music decreases stress-induced hor-
mones, such as b-endorphin and ACTH.
39,40
It is important
to note the areas sampled for the messengers. Goldstein
38
mea-
sured central opioid activity as opposed to Halpaap et al
39
who
measured peripheral concentrations of b-endorphin.
While the studies exhibit promise toward the effects of
music on messenger production for developing improved med-
ical care, certain issues remain for further consideration. Most
experiments have focused attention on particular types of
music and have included neither large sample sizes nor wide
ranges of musical diversity as variables. Thus far, studies have
selected musical pieces for participants based on certain musi-
cal elements such as rhythm, tempo, and tonality but must not
ignore basic qualifications such as instrumental versus vocal
melodies and ethnic diversities.
Few studies were found to have compared profiles of mes-
senger production of musically educated and untrained parti-
cipants. Active participation in producing music increased
natural killer (NK) cell activity and changed gene expres-
sions for interferon-gand IL-10.
41
However, the participants
were merely motivated by a trained mentor to play percussion
instruments rather than to perform independently with musi-
cal knowledge. Musical ability has been found to influence
the production of hormones.
42-44
Musical talent and simply
Gangrade 41
listening to music have been compared with respect to
production of IgA and cortisol.
45
Exploring the exact functions of cytokines, neurotrans-
mitters, hormones, peptides, and other messengers requires
further research. While exposure to music may reveal such
functions through trends in messenger production, they are
not by any means causative. Complexity is apparent when dis-
cussing the aggregative effects of the messengers. A trend in
the production of a particular messenger may be offset or
amplified by the potency of another messenger. Thus, path-
ways of messenger production prove crucial to understanding
the connections between the mind and the body. One study
has shown that music may balance messenger levels by
increasing and decreasing steroids in those with low and high
hormone levels, respectively.
46
Further research on the link
between messenger outputs and physiological homeostasis
remains to be determined.
47
Learning about specific messenger changes as a result of lis-
tening to and processing music proves promising toward eluci-
dating therapeutic benefits. This article seeks to place emphasis
on a field believed to have real biological implications that may
become even more relevant in the clinical realm in the future.
Neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, and peptides provide
a more quantitative means of comparison for music studies.
They represent the direct link between music interpretation and
physiological reactions. Further research may encourage devel-
opment of better pharmacological drugs to combat problems
with lesser side effects or to pave the way for newer treatments.
All the literature reviewed for the effects of music on biochem-
ical messenger responses do not contain recordings or any other
type of specific musical content. The titles and composers of
the music were provided in the articles as they can be readily
accessed through the Internet. Thus, the relationships between
the specific types of music and their effects on the levels of bio-
chemical messengers serve as a foundation for further under-
standing the role of music in physiological mechanisms.
Acknowledgment
The author sincerely appreciates the guidance of Dr Miriam Zach
while writing this article.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
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Bio
Abhishek Gangrade, BS, received his bachelor of science degree in
biology at the University of Florida.
Gangrade 43
... Likewise, different styles of music seem to correlate with different emotions, which is also relevant for music psychotherapy. For example, Krumhans and Gangrade [35,36] explored the physiological changes in blood circulation, respiration, skin conductivity, body temperature, and emotions associated with certain musical structures. Music with a fast tempo in a major key seemed to correlate with happiness; a slow tempo in a minor key with sadness; a faster tempo with dissonances correlated with fear. ...
... Chemically, endorphins are like morphine increasing our body's threshold for pain, affecting emotions, and bringing pleasure. According to many researchers [36,55,56] brain areas known to be involved in endorphin activity were activated during music engagement although endorphin activity was not always directly measured. Uplifting music seems to activate areas in the limbic system, which then may release endorphins. ...
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This article describes the key neurological findings that impact music psychotherapy practice. I will also contemplate whether such findings could provide a foundation for music psychotherapy. Within the framework of music medicine research, this article will seek to strengthen and qualify rationale for the common acknowledgement of the ‘power of music,’ a phrase typically invoked to explain essential aspects of the music psychotherapy process. A neurological foundation may serve to support a grounded rationale in the utilization of how music can be best implemented within a music psychotherapy construct with clients. The article will introduce the following most essential neurological rationale supporting the therapeutic impact of music engagement, (music listening or music-making). The following premises pertain to music psychotherapy practices: 1) Music is multisensory and may stimulate various sensory areas, 2) Music may retrieve memories and evoke emotions, and 3) Music may elicit changes in hormones and neurotransmitters.
... The research employed a meta-analysis approach found that the intervention by using music lower the systolic, diastolic pressures, and heart rate, in which also found in the patients with coronary heart disease [22]. This shows that music in the exercise decreases the level of activity of the HPA axis and the SAM axis, thus increasing pleasure, improving mood, and reducing anxiety, [23], on the contrary, exercise without music collaboration activate the HPA Axis and SAM axis to secrete cortisol and catecholamine hormones [24]. Both hormones cause an increase a heart performance [25]. ...
... Music can direct a pleasant emotional condition so that it can trigger physical and mental relaxation, which raises the positive emotion through limbic system which then releases endorphin [22] holding responsible on the regulation of cardiorespiratory performance and also can decrease the activity of HPA axis [17], which can decrease the secretion of stress hormone (cortisol) [28]. [29] It has been proven that listening to music increases β-endorphin secretion, growth hormone, norepinephrine and decreases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion, cortisol, and decreases inflammation [24]. Accordingly it increases relaxation and decreases the stress level, particularly the stress in muscles. ...
... A number of studies have examined the effect of music on various hormones. Pertinent reviews are found in the work of Gangrade (2012), Chanda and Levitin (2013), and Fancourt, Ockelford, and Belai (2014). Endocrine music studies have typically focused on cortisol (CS) (e.g., VanderArk & Ely, 1992), testosterone (e.g., Fukui, 2001), human growth hormone (HGH), oxytocin (OT), and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ...
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Philosophers have long wrestled with the apparent paradox of the enjoyment of negative emotional portrayals in the arts. An example of this apparent paradox is the enjoyment among some listeners of nominally sad music. An experiment is reported in which 39 participants listened to sad and happy music while serum prolactin (PRL) concentrations were measured. The purpose of the experiment was to test an a priori theory, proposed by Huron, that liking sad music is mediated by elevated PRL levels. Contrary to the theory, sad music did not result in a significant increase in PRL; nor was the pleasure of listening to sad music associated with increased PRL. Nominally happy music did result in a decrease of PRL, especially for those participants who most prefer happy music over sad music. The effect was greatest for those who score high on a measure of loneliness. Consistent with other studies, the degree of liking sad music over happy music was found to correlate with trait openness to experience, although this effect was not echoed in PRL levels. Post-hoc analyses indicate that PRL decreases were most marked for male listeners and those who score high on a loneliness measure. In general, the results are not consistent with the theory proposed by Huron.
... Reference lists of included articles and previous reviews of potential relevance (21)(22)(23)(24)(25)(26)(27) were hand-searched to identify additional articles not picked up by the electronic searches. ...
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Objectives: Positive mood has been associated with enhanced immune function. Interventions that improve mood could, therefore, provide a mechanism for optimising immune related health outcomes. Brief interventions that improve mood, also known as mood inductions, potentially offer a pragmatic approach to enhancing immune function for suor surgery). This review sought to systematically examine the evidence regarding the effects of brief, single-session positive mood interventions on immunity. Methods: Systematic searches of electronic databases were performed from earliest records to 25 July 2018. We identified 42 interventions suitable for inclusion, six of which were tested in multiple sub-populations. Random effects meta-analyses were performed for pre-post experimental group immune outcomes measured in at least 5 intervention studies. Results: While interventions were heterogeneous, 81% resulted in a statistically significant change in at least one immune parameter following the positive mood intervention for one or more of the sub-populations examined. However, studies were, in general, of low-to-moderate quality with small sample sizes (median n=32) and did not examine the persistence, or clinical relevance of the immune changes observed. Random effects meta-analyses showed a significant medium-sized effect of interventions on increasing secretory IgA concentration (g=0.65), a small but statistically significant effect for increased IL-6 production (g=0.12) and non-significant effects on NK cell activity (g=0.15). Conclusions: The current literature suggests that improvements in mood resulting from brief interventions can influence some immune parameters in ways indicative of enhanced immune function. However, there is a need for higher quality research in this area that focuses on clinically relevant immune outcomes and mechanisms.
... It confirmed that doing sport while listening to either classical or modern music can decrease the cortisol hormone, improve the running period, and increase the produced energy. In certain phenomena, it is confirmed that music increase the production of brain instruction (messengers) in the body, it is demonstrated that music affects steroid hormones (cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, and also the protein receptor, which leads to neurogenesis and learning ability improvement, moreover, music controls the production of neurotrophins in hypothalamus [44], which can reduce stress and lead to a better learning ability [46]. According to Urakaya and Yokoyama [47], during sport, music has a role in increasing the source of energy in the muscles, changing the metabolism, releasing emotions, reducing fatigue, and accelerating recovery, since music affects the activity change on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). ...
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