Monday, June 15, 2009

"Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired"(Boethius)

Music, as a form of therapy has been increasingly studied over recent decades with promising results, including uses in pain management, mental illness, including autism, along with general well being and learning. These findings seem astonishing to the western world but in Shamanic cultures, music has been used for centuries to tend to a patient’s needs. This essay will seek to examine the neurological effects of music as well as the uses that are now apparent for music therapy and the parallels with ancient Shamanic practices.

Music itself preceded records, written and perhaps even spoken. There is evidence of musical instruments dating back to prehistoric times (MUSIC AND THE BRAIN). Every culture has a musical style, whether it be vocal, drumming and percussive, instrumental or all of these combined. Music is a central part of any culture and many cultures are intertwined and defined by the music they play. More recently, in western society music has become less a thing of spirituality and beauty, the inviolability of music has passed and music became background noise, given little, or no respect. At the same time, however, scientists have begun to research the effects that music can have on the brain, and on the physical body. These effects have astounded researchers, psychologists and accordingly there is no an increasingly growing field of Music Therapy recognised throughout western society.

There are many avenues into which Music Therapy is proving to be a useful tool, both as a means of therapy alone or accompanying another form of treatment. The uses range from general wellbeing, including mild depression all the way through to severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, as well as autism, and pain management. Other uses include memory preservation in cases of Alzheimer’s and Dementia and assisting with children with learning difficulties.

The techniques used vary with each case – and every patient’s treatment is specially configured to suit the individual patients needs and abilities, whether they are comfortable playing music, and their history with music and how the patient is feeling. The therapist uses all this information and his own knowledge to make a suitable plan for the patient. This system is much like a Shaman’s use of specific songs out of his knowledge of hundreds of songs – perhaps even composing one for the patient there.

When it comes to elderly patients who are suffering form memory altering diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Music therapy can be a useful tool in both the recollection and retention of memories. The music therapist can play songs from the patient’s youth. This can often help to “unlock” memories and the patient can work from these memories. Patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia often suffer from depression as they feel incapable of many simple tasks and composing a song with a music therapist can help the patient to work through their feelings. This same principle applies to patients with other mental illnesses.

As music is a powerful form of expression many patients suffering mental illness benefit from use of music therapy. With severe mental illness such as schizophrenia – the aim is to help the patients to work through their feelings as well as, more importantly, to build relationships. With Autism, patients are often shown rhythmic light displays and listen to music with a strong beat, such as techno. This can have a similar effect on the brain as Ritalin as the brain waves synchronize with the beat of the music.

This essay has demonstrated some of the effects that music can have on the brain as a therapy. This has only recently become apparent in the west, over the last forty years, but it was apparent to our anscestors, and remains apparent today in eastern societies. Shamanic practices have stayed the same over thousands of years, and while the west have moved forward with medical advances – our attitudes towards alternative therapies have gone backwards – are we too confident of what we created? Should we have held onto the ideas of our ancestors? Thankfully, we have become aware of our mistakes and seem to be moving forward into an era in which we accept our old ideas, inviting a new era of medicine which incorporates the traditions we nearly left behind. kids brain & music Alzheimer’s mental illness schizophrenia

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