A new study published in the Journal of Pain has reported that listening to music can reduce the experience of pain.
153 normal, healthy participants took part in the experiment which asked them to complete music tasks such as listening to the melody of the music or identifying deviant tones in songs while being subjected to experimental electric shocks via an electrode attached to their fingers.
The researchers at the at University of Utah Pain Research Centre wanted to examine the effects of music not as a distraction to the pain experience but rather the cognitive and emotional processes that arise through listening to music which changes the way a person copes with stress and negative, painful experiences.
Each participants pupil dilation, skin conductance and stimulus-evoked potentials were recorded throughout the experiment as indicators of pain and anxiety levels. Additionally subjects were asked to complete anxiety and absorption questionnaires to establish individual differences between participants that may have altered how music affects their individual pain experience.
The researchers reported that the influence of music on the reduction of pain and anxiety is dependent on the type of person, someone who suffers from relatively severe anxiety and has a personality trait of being easily absorbed in activities with little persuasion or effort found that music decreased their anxiety and pain experience to a greater extent.
In light of this, the researchers suggested that music therapy may be a more appropriate therapy option for people suffering with symptoms of anxiety who have certain characteristics and potentially less effective for others.