Sep 5, 2012 11:21 PM by John Overall

UAMC using musical medicine to help heal patients

TUCSON - When a heart fails or a disease invades physicians, family, and friends are willing to try just about anything to ease a patients pain.

The University of Arizona Medical Center is taking that "anything goes" philosophy to the next level. Most of us have heard about alternative medicine. Now we're hearing about musical medicine. A new study being conducted at UAMC shows this idea may be hitting a healing note.

Norman Neipris is one of 100 ICU patients at UAMC participating in an unusual study on musical healing. Norman is a music lover and he was thrilled to be treated to a personal performance from Carrol McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, is a Julliard Master of Music with a Doctor of Music from the University of Arizona and she believes her harp has healing powers. "The music that I play is all improvised, it never exists beforehand, and would never exist without me tuning into that person," McLaughlin said.
She believes she can feel bad vibrations when a body is out of harmony. "I can hear what's out of tune, and through the harp I can almost entrain the part that's in disharmony to relax and to come into harmony with the rest of the body which is when healing happens," said McLaughlin.

Dr. Ann Baldwin wants to know if science backs up McLaughlin's theory. "We want to see, does the harp cause emotion that will benefit the whole body of the person?" said Dr. Baldwin. Over the summer Dr. Baldwin conducted a controlled experiment.

Fifty patients enjoyed a ten minute harp solo while 50 others enjoyed 10 minutes of rest without the music. Dr. Baldwin says early findings show blood pressure and heart rates improved for the patients who listened to the music. Those patients also said they felt much better. "For sure their pain levels went down," said Dr. Baldwin.

McLaughlin said she played for some patients who struggled to breathe. But when she struck the right cord they seemed to catch their breath. McLaughlin says she witnessed even more dramatic results. "One person came out of a coma for the first time in, since they'd been here, six days," McLaughlin said with a smile.

McLaughlin says playing a c.d. won't have the same result. She claims she has to feel the vibrations from the patient and respond to those vibrations. She acknowledges the harp music can't cure a patient, but right now doctors say early indications show it may help in the healing process.


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