Take two stanzas and call me in the morning

From poets to politicians, people have long described music as medicine for the heart and soul. Now scientists are taking a literal look at such musings, investigating music as a means to alleviate pain and enhance recovery. Though some studies are still in the early stages, your favorite soundtrack may one day accompany a prescription.

Alzheimer’s disease: Studies have shown that individuals with Alzheimer’s have a better memory for lyrics when they are sung rather than spoken. The findings suggest that song may help these patients learn practical, everyday information.

Pain and nausea: Cancer patients who participated in music and relaxation-imagery sessions while recovering from bone marrow transplants had less pain and nausea than patients undergoing the standard treatment alone.

Anxiety: Listening to music before glaucoma or cataract removal surgery soothed patient anxiety, lowering blood pressure levels during and after the surgery, one study found. Another study showed that pregnant women who listen to music for 30 minutes a day report reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression after
two weeks.

Stroke: Patients who listened to music of their choosing for one to two hours a day did better on word recall tests and had fewer bouts of sadness and confusion than patients who listened to audio books or nothing at all. Research also suggests that simulating movement with music of a particular tempo may improve walking in stroke patients, and stroke patients report improved vision while listening
to music.

Respiratory disease: Over eight weeks, subjects with serious lung disease who listened to music while walking showed improved fitness, a study found. Those patients covered 24 percent more ground than a nonmusic group.

Traumatic brain injury: Some patients who underwent music therapy that involved following tempo, loudness and rhythmic pattern performed better on tests of mental flexibility, suggesting such therapy may help people with brain injuries manage switching between important tasks during daily life.