History of Music Therapy and Its Contemporary Applications in Cardiovascular Diseases

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Abstract

Contrary to what is commonly believed, music therapy is an old cure, the use of which is lost in the mists of time. Music always has been perceived to have particular healing powers, and the entire history of civilization contains aspects that link music to physical and mental healing. It seems that the adoption of music for therapeutic purposes harks back to a distant past, probably since the Paleolithic period: it was believed that listening to music could affect the behavior of human beings. In later centuries, the concept of “musical organ-tropism” was born and developed, because according to the type of music, one may affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, and neuroendocrine systems. Studies have shown that music can powerfully evoke and modulate emotions and moods, along with changes in heart activity, blood pressure, and breathing. Indeed, the following findings arise from the literature: heart and respiratory rates are higher in response to exciting music than in the case of tranquilizing music. In addition, music produces activity changes in brain structures (amygdala, hypothalamus, insular and orbitofrontal cortex) known to modulate heart function. This article provides a careful overview of music therapy history from prehistory to the present and a review of the latest applications of music therapy in cardiovascular diseases.

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