Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston said music also reduces levels of serum cortisol in the blood. An important player in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, cortisol increases metabolic activity, suppresses the immune system and has been associated with both anxiety and depression, the researchers said.
The HPA axis is a complex set of direct influences and feedback interactions among the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands, which control reactions to stress and regulates many body processes, including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, energy storage and expenditure.
A number of studies showed exposing post-operative patients to music dramatically lowers their cortisol levels, enhancing their ability to heal.
Other studies in the review measured music's impact on congestive heart failure, premature infants, immunity, digestive function and pain perception. In particular, music's effects on the limbic and hypothalamic systems reduced the incidence of heart failure. Other studies showed that surgical patients required less sedation and post-operative pain medication, the review said.
The review was published in the journal Nutrition.