The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: a systematic review and a new model

Fancourt, D. and Ockelford, A. and Belai, A. (2014) The psychoneuroimmunological effects of music: a systematic review and a new model. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36 pp. 15-26. ISSN 0889-1591 (print) 1090-2139 (online)


There has been a growing interest over the past decade into the health benefits of music, in particular examining its psychological and neurological effects. Yet this is the first attempt to systematically review publications on the psychoneuroimmunology of music. Of the selected sixty-three studies published over the past 22 years, a range of effects of music on neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines, lymphocytes, vital signs and immunoglobulins as well as psychological assessments are cataloged. Research so far points to the pivotal role of stress pathways in linking music to an immune response. However, several challenges to this research are noted: (1) there is very little discussion on the possible mechanisms by which music is achieving its neurological and immunological impact; (2) the studies tend to examine biomarkers in isolation, without taking into consideration the interaction of the biomarkers in question with other physiological or metabolic activities of the body, leading to an unclear understanding of the impact that music may be having; (3) terms are not being defined clearly enough, such as distinctions not being made between different kinds of stress and ‘music’ being used to encompass a broad spectrum of activities without determining which aspects of musical engagement are responsible for alterations in biomarkers. In light of this, a new model is presented which provides a framework for developing a taxonomy of musical and stress-related variables in research design, and tracing the broad pathways that are involved in its influence on the body.

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