Music influences human behavior by affecting the brain and subsequently other bodily structures in ways that are observable, identifiable, measurable, and predictable, thereby providing the necessary foundation for therapeutic applications.
“Music therapy is basic and fundamental medicine in that it is aimed at the brain and its functions” (Biomedical Foundations of Music as Therapy by Dale B. Taylor, PhD, MT-BC). The same neuroanatomic structures (eg. the limbic system and hypothalamus) are involved in:
- Regulation of neurohormones associated with stress
- Regulation of immune responses
- Processing music
The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adreno-Cortical (HPAC) sequence is triggered when an organism is faced with a situation where effective coping methods are not available. First, the hypothalamus releases CRF, which stimulates the anterior pituitary. The anterior pituitary then releases ACTH, stimulating the adrenal cortex to release cortisol. The increase in cortisol can lead to depression, anxiety, arteriosclerosis, immunosuppression, and memory deficits.
By contrast, the Sympathoadrenomedullary system, by which immune response increases and depression is counteracted, is involved when an organism is faced with a situation where active coping methods are available. This is the case when Music Therapy is applied. The process takes place over the following 7 steps:
- Goal Formulation
- Selection of Music
- Building Relationships: Therapeutic Resonance
- Self-Awareness and Empowerment
- Applying Strategies
- Closing and Evaluating