Published Jun 03, 2011Earlier this week, we found out that the hard-rockin' strains of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" can soothe the soul of a great white shark. But how does music affect the human condition?
Author Elena Mannes explores this question and waxes poetic on the health benefits of music in her latest book, The Power of Music, making a case that music could have the power to help patients heal from serious conditions such as Parkinson's disease or a stroke.
Mannes has studied the impact of music on humans throughout their life span and has pointed to the early development of musical skills. She explains that the cries of newborn babies contain the basic intervals of the Western music scale. She went on to tell NPR in an interview that infants are attracted to "consonant intervals, the smooth-sounding ones that sound nice to our Western ears in a chord, as opposed to a jarring combination of notes."
She goes on to discuss scientific studies on how music stimulates the brain, pointing to treatments like melodic intonation therapy, which "uses music to coax portions of the brain into taking over for those that are damaged" and can be beneficial for stroke patients.
"A stroke patient who has lost verbal function -- those verbal functions may be stimulated by music," she said.
Her book also discusses theories about developing a relationship with music and sounds in the womb, as well as how we associate music with memory, something that may be helpful for treating Alzheimer's patients.