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Musopathy: Mapping music and its medicinal benefits
The effects of music on one’s mood are well-known – a particularly sad song after an emotional crisis can trigger an all-night ice cream binge, while an upbeat song can boost your motivation for the rest of the day. However, these informal opinions lack empirical data, and it is this gap that musopathy hopes to fill.
The term was coined by Carnatic musician Chitravina N Ravikiran. “Musopathy wants to understand how and why music is good for your health. The issue with music therapy is that it lacks proper information and data about the effects music has on the body and health. I wanted to find a way to detail these effects empirically, and thus coined the term musopathy to establish this connection,” he said.
The musician spoke of experiments conducted in the city in the 1980s, where certain ragas from Carnatic music were played to cows to increase milk production. “However, this was a very surface-level study. Ragas are very similar to each other, so why can only the ananda bhairavi raga affect the dairy output and not a similar raga?” said the musician, who took up this discourse in 1990.
From mental issues to even cardiac health, the power of music must be backed up with certain evidence to be helpful in the medical field, said Dr CN Ramchand, CEO, Saksin Lifesciences Pvt Ltd, Chennai. “We must understand the known phenotypical barriers, and how music can affect these barriers. Connected to this are biochemical parameters, like glucocorticol and corticoids and nearly 30-40 parameters that must be analysed, through blood or saliva samples,” he said.
Citing the need to conduct more studies on the matter, Ravikiran is currently working with the Charotar University of Science and Technology in Gujarat to study effects of music on enzyme production and the pituitary gland.
“Unless we know how and why music is good, we cannot hope to prescribe it for a patient. The correct dosages must also be analysed. There is a need for precision in our approach to music and its benefits, as it relates to human welfare,” he said.