The direct influence of the sound waves on the functioning of the human body and brain was noticed a long time ago. Correspondingly, numerous studies were focused on the investigation of this phenomenon and its potential impacts on the physical and emotional health of people. Nowadays, the treatment with sounds and music plays an essential role in the therapeutic techniques and methods. The experts utilize the physical theories about the frequency of sounds and sound waves to increase the positive impacts of music on the health of an individual. Additionally, music therapy demonstrates striking results proving the efficiency of using sound properties in the treatment. This paper analyzes the physical theories of sound waves, examines the influence of music on the human brain, and discusses the principles of music therapy in the treatment of some mental disorders.
Physical Theories of Sounds
Sound is a physical quantity, which exists in the form of vibrations and waves. When sounds enter a human ear, they are immediately converted into the electrical signal. Through the auditory nerve, the signal reaches the part of the brain, which is capable of perceiving and recognizing the sounds (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). This section of the brain is called the auditory cortex. It has been noticed that various sounds cause different responses and reactions of the brain. Therefore, it is possible to assume that sounds are capable of evoking different emotions, facilitating the release of body chemicals and hormones as well as causing multiple reactions, both on physiological and mental levels.
Sounds affect various parts of the brain, which perform different functions. For example, thalamus assists in regulating the sleep patterns and creating the sensory data under the influence of external sounds (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). Analogically, the sounds affect work of cerebellum, responsible for the motor functions and learning. It is also essential to mention Broca’s area and its role in the formation of emotions, feelings, and social awareness. The sounds have influence on different emotional states and language comprehension (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). Thus, many parts of the brain perceive the sounds and perform their functions according to the properties of the perceived sound waves.
As physical quantities, the sound waves possess a number of characteristics. Thus, it is possible to distinguish between the degrees of frequency, amplitude, pressure, speed, and direction of the sound waves (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). All of these properties influence the human brain in different ways. For example, the energetic, dynamic, and loud sounds can provoke stress, anxiety, and overwhelming physical activity of individuals. On the contrary, the graduate, quiet, and calm sounds contribute to the conditions of relaxation, tranquility, and psychological protection. In such a way, all characteristics of the sound waves affect the human brain and result in various responses.
Special attention should be paid to the frequency of sounds. The researchers claim that this property of the sound waves creates the biggest impact on the human brain and can be successfully employed in the therapeutic methods (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). The frequency of sounds is measured in Hertz, and the human brain is capable of perceiving four main sound wave patterns. These are Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta sounds. Each of these groups produces diverse effects on the brain and body, resulting in either improvement or deterioration in the physical and emotional health (Puzi, Jailani, Norhazman, & Zaini 2013). Therefore, music therapies should carefully choose the sounds to provide the most effective treatment for the patients.
Impact of Sound Waves on the Human Brain
The Beta sound waves (14-30 Hz) cause the state of anxiety and stress. Due to their high level of sound speed and frequency, the beta waves negatively influence the human health and evoke the feelings of alertness and worry (Puzi et al., 2013). The usage of these sound waves should be minimized in both treatment and everyday life. Additionally, the Beta waves can trigger the brain stem reflex, which is responsible for informing about the urgent and important events. In other words, listening to Beta sounds causes the reaction of psychological protection and activates the mechanisms of dissonance on the instinctive level (Basar, & Guntekin, 2013).
The Alpha waves (8-13.9 Hz) have the opposite effect on the brain. The frequency of the Alpha wave patterns is lower compared to Beta sounds (Puzi et al., 2013). This fact explains the positive outcome of such sounds for the brain. A human ear can perceive and distinguish between sounds at the Alpha level. The researches state that Alpha sounds evoke the emotions of relaxation, tranquility, and peace (Puzi et al., 2013). Sometimes, they are used for the mediation techniques to induce some unconscious associations and recollections.
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The Alpha sounds have a profound influence on parts of the brain called hippocampus and amygdala. Depending on the perceived sounds, the hippocampus helps to form memories and patterns of behavior. Similarly, the amygdala is capable of processing the information about sound memories and evoking positive emotions under the influence of Alpha sounds. Not surprisingly, the contemporary music therapies utilize the Alpha sounds in the treatment programs to facilitate the process of recovering from both physical and mental disorders.
While Beta and Alpha sounds are audible for the human ear, the lower frequencies influence the brain on the unconscious level. For example, the Theta waves (4-7.9 Hz) affect the unconscious and subconscious mind of humans (Basar, & Guntekin, 2013). Particularly, Theta waves assist in increasing the learning potential and creativity. They also help to create new memories and associations as well as change the conventional patterns of behavior. The last option is of paramount importance for the sound therapies since it is an essential aid to the treatment of the disorders and triggers new mechanisms of acting and thinking.
The Delta sounds (1- 3.9 Hz) perform similar functions (Basar, & Guntekin, 2013). Remaining inaudible, they evoke the flashbacks and recollections from the individual and collective unconsciousness and facilitate the processes of meditation and trance conditions. Moreover, the perception of the Delta sounds leads to the physiological reactions such as the extra release of the chemicals and changes in the sleep patterns (Basar, & Guntekin, 2013). Overall, different sounds are used in the treatment and therapies for the purpose of influencing the personal consciousness and unconsciousness and evoking positive reactions and emotions.
Basic Principles of Music Therapy
Music therapy is the complex of exercises and professional interventions that is aimed at healing the physical and mental disorders and reaching the individual goals of the patients. Music therapies are successfully implemented in the treatment of both children and adults. Analogically, they are equally important for treating physiological and psychological disorders and illnesses (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). In addition, the professionals advise music therapies for the prenatal education, which is presupposed to provide a positive impact on the development of children. Thus, it is possible to state that music therapy is the universal intervention tool, which has a significant effect on the health of patients.
Music therapy performs a number of valuable functions. Particularly, it strongly assists in the emotional development, improvement of motor skills, facilitation of the learning process, and establishment of the positive social, aesthetic, and spiritual attitudes. Music therapy exists in a variety of forms, which include listening to the classical compositions, singing, playing musical instruments, discussing songs, and dancing (Edwards, 2016). Additionally, music therapies help to reduce the stress level, improve communication skills, and release the potential of the patients in the process of improvisation and creative activities.
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Music therapy has several basic purposes, which define the framework of its influence and intervention:
- First, it targets the emotional and evaluative conditioning. When the human brain perceives the same sets of sounds on the regular basis, it forms the stable connections or associations with the events and ideas (Edwards, 2016). Correspondingly, the patients acquire new patterns of behavior and communication as well as new forms of memorizing the content of sessions. Besides, the evaluative conditioning helps to improve the memory processes and quality of learning.
- Second, music therapy contributes to the creation of the visual images and development of imagery. Every musical composition evokes certain visual patterns or scenes. As a result, the patients are able to connect the music images with the visual ones as well as develop their creativity and imagery. Moreover, the discussion and analysis of the visual images help therapists understand the emotional conditions of the patients and ascertain the reasons for the disorders (Edwards, 2016).
- Third, music therapy focuses on the empowerment of episodic memory and amelioration of the mnemonic processes in general. The phenomenon of episodic memory can be frequently observed during the sessions of music therapy. Listening to a certain melody repeatedly, the patients are able to form associations with these musical pieces and evoke them every time they hear the same music again (Critchley, & Henson, 2014). This technique allows therapists to link some positive emotions and attitudes to the musical compositions and intervene into the mnemonic processes of patients.
- In addition, the music therapy aims at the development of new emotions and feelings experienced while listening to musical compositions. This phenomenon is called the music expectancy. When a person listens to an unfamiliar set of sounds or new progression of tone, he or she develops the feelings of curiosity and surprise (Edwards, 2016). The therapists can use these emotions to introduce some positive experience and teach the patients new types of behavior or thinking.
- Therefore, the music therapy performs a variety of useful functions and meets the requirements of the contemporary rehabilitation techniques. The diverse nature of sounds and their powerful impacts on the human brain allow therapists considerably influence the patients’ emotional conditions and devise new ways of treatment and recovery. Not surprisingly, the elements of music therapy are widely exploited in the numerous treatment programs for people suffering from the mental disorders.
Music Therapy in Treatment of Mental Disorders
The medical practice shows that music therapy is a successful intervention for the treatment of the majority of mental diseases (Silverman, 2015). It is an efficient method of improving the emotional conditions of patients, reducing the level of stress, and developing the positive attitude to the surrounding world. As a result, the music therapy is used to treat mood disorders, anxiety, and depression and focuses on avoiding negative impacts, relaxation, and the development of the creative potential of patients.
Listening to the classical compositions greatly assists in reducing anxiety and forming positive opinions and ideas. For example, the researches state that listening to Mozart’s music allows patients to overcome depression and feel relaxed and calm (Silverman, 2015). Moreover, such classes help to increase the work productivity and creativity of patients. This method is also widely used in the therapy for the children and adults suffering from the mental disorders (Grocke et al., 2014).
In particular, music therapy helps to treat children with the autism. Since such children experience significant difficulties with the verbal communication and recognition of language signs, this approach helps them to distinguish between sounds and improve the interpersonal communication and interaction (Silverman, 2015). Furthermore, the utilization of music therapies for children with autism assists in modifying their social behavior, extending the network of contacts, and increasing learning abilities.
Music therapy also helps children to acquire language skills and master verbal communication. Moreover, it improves their motor skills, creativity, and mnemonic processes. The music therapy for children suffering from autism comprises the long-term interventions and group sessions. Such forms of work provide the convenient environment for personal growth and interpersonal interaction between children. Listening to the music compositions and playing simple instruments and sound games allow children to upgrade their communication skills, develop story-telling and signing creativity, and shape social behavior and attitudes. In addition, music therapy improves children’s mental processes, such as learning, focusing attention, memorizing, and reproducing the new material (Silverman, 2015).
Another mental disorder that can be successfully treated with the help of music therapy is the Alzheimer’s disease. The peculiarities of this disorder include the lack of social awareness, problems with communication and attention, reduced productivity of mental processes, and increased state of anxiety and stress. In these terms, music therapy assists patients in acquiring the fundamental social and communicative skills, developing new positive patterns of cooperative behavior, and decreasing the level of stress and worry (Silverman, 2015).
Furthermore, patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience the improvement of their cognitive capacities and enhancement of learning and mnemonic processes under the influence of music therapy sessions. It is essential to admit that the quality of the results of such treatment depends on a particular situation and individual (Grocke et al., 2014). In other words, the success of music therapy lies in the patient’s personal efforts, the length of treatment, and other individual factors.
Music therapy is also utilized when working with the people suffering from amnesia. This mental disorder tends to develop rapidly and unexpectedly. However, the music therapy demonstrates certain improvements in the mental conditions of the patients. For example, the researches witness that patients can form new strong associations with the music, despite the inability to recollect the memories of their personal life (Silverman, 2015). Playing musical instruments and singing contributes to the activation of the long-term memory and improvement of the motor skills as well. As a result, the patients are able to reproduce the content of the therapeutic sessions long after the treatment program has ended. Obviously, such outcome proves the efficiency of the music therapies for people who suffer from mental disorders.
To summarize, music therapy is a progressive and powerful treatment of children and adults suffering from mental diseases. The researchers have noticed that different sounds provide various impacts on the human brain and evoke multiple reactions and responses. Correspondingly, they have analyzed the ways of using sounds in the treatment programs to explore their positive effects on the work of the human body and brain. Nowadays, the music therapy techniques are widely used in the rehabilitation and treatment programs. The medical practices show that music therapy has a beneficial influence on the treatment of mental diseases such as amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, dementia, and depression. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that music therapy contributes substantially to person’s mental health and provides limitless opportunities for the improvement of the quality of mental processes.