The healing power of music

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Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013 4:42 pm | Updated: 4:37 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Whether it's pop, hip-hop, country, or classical, we all have favorite songs that make us move or simply move us. But could music help as we battle different diseases and conditions?

Danielle Decosmo's stage is a hospital room. The hospital volunteer plays for cancer patients like Virginia. Her husband David says "it does a lot towards helping you get the right attitude to heal instead of feeling down and sorry for yourself."

"I do see a change often," says Decosmo. "I definitely think music helps people heal."

Board certified music therapist Elizabeth Stegemoller knows it does. "Music stimulates…multiple areas of the brain."

The neuroscience PHD specializes in Parkinson's and says walking in time with music can help patients overcome walking difficulties. "If you have a person with a motor disorder, you can use music to help facilitate movement."

She tells us after singing training, Parkinson's patients' speech can improve too.

A program at Saint Louis University is testing if music improves cancer treatment by decreasing patients' stress. Research at the University of Kentucky found it did reduce surgery patients' pain and recovery time. And it's been shown to increase Alzheimer's patients' cognitive function.

Stegemoller says more research is needed to find out what music changes in the brain. "There's a lot of theories out there as to why it's working, so now those theories need to be tested."

In the meantime, music seems to be making Virginia's treatment a little more bearable. “You just feel good."

Music programs for vets with PTSD are showing promise. A study funded by the VA found vets given six weeks of guitar lessons reported a 21% reduction in overall symptoms and a 37% increase in health-related quality of life.

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