Doctors Whip Up Musical Prescriptions

If you think about it, music already has some things in common with medicine – parental advisory labels turn explicit CDs into “controlled substances,” while albums regarded as relatively harmless can be purchased “over the counter” by any customer. For centuries, music has been used to treat ailments as well as to entertain, and recent studies have produced scientific evidence to support these traditional claims. But Austrian Vera Brandes wants to give music equal status with prescription drugs in the world of mainstream healthcare, declaring “I am the first musical pharmacologist.”

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Support for certain types of music as beneficial to one’s well being has skyrocketed among medical professionals over the last few decades. Dr. Michael Rozien of the Cleveland Clinic is one of these advocates, explaining to the New York Times that “[listening] to finer music and attending concerts on a consistent basis makes your real age about four years younger.” As to what constitutes “finer music,” many experts simply offer general suggestions – classical is a favorite. Dissatisfied with this lax approach, Brandes believes that music can function on a par with medicine and should be treated as such. With her company Sanoson, the director of music and medicine research at Salzburg’s Paracelsus Private Medical University is developing listening regimens of original compositions to treat specific ailments. She described a hypothetical case to the newspaper: “Say a patient comes in suffering from depression… [the] first step is always to see the physician. But then there will be the choice of treatment options: the shrink,  Prozac or music.” Like any prescription, the musical “doses” should be taken on a fixed schedule to achieve the best results. The Sanoson “therapies” are slated for a fall launch in Austria and Germany, but won’t reach the United States until 2010.

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