MPC and UP Initiative in Music Psychotherapy for Anxiety

Music Psychology Center Philippines together with the University of the Philippines constructed a Seminar/Workshop entitled Yatu: Yapos ng Tugtugin to create awareness on the mental health benefits of Music Psychology. The conference focused on the following areas:

Music Psychology

Music psychology is regarded both as a branch of musicology and a form of complementary psychology studies. It examines the effect of music on people, on both an individual and societal level. Now formally studied at several universities, music psychology has become a fascinating branch of science, still relatively new in its testing and impact.

Music psychology is a broad field, combining elements of traditional music science with applied psychology studies, cultural anthropology, and the study of cognition, among other disciplines. Some of the areas currently studied involve the effects of music rituals such as concerts, psychological reasons for musical preferences, and the study of musical performance. Each of these areas can tell researchers a bit about the effects of music on people, and give clues into the importance of music to the brain.

Some people actively use music for its stimulating or relaxing effects. Drivers who suffer from anxiety are sometimes advised to keep quiet music on in their vehicles as a means of maintaining calm. Sporting events often use specific songs as a means of exciting the crowd and creating an atmosphere of anticipation. Music psychology attempts to understand why specific types of music create these effects, and how it can be harnessed to bring specific reactions from individuals.

Although it is a relatively new field, music psychology studies one of the oldest known cultural practices. The idea that the human brain reacts specifically to tonality, rhythmic patterns and learned musical practices is a fascinating concept worthy of scientific exploration. Using modern brain-mapping technology and sophisticated research techniques, it may be possible to identify and control the effects of music on the brain, leading to possible benefits to those with mental and even some physical problems. Only time will tell how valuable the research will become, but it looks likely to gain interest and adherents as it becomes a more prominent field of study.

Music and The Brain

The process by which we’re able to perceive a series of sounds as music is incredibly complex, Silbersweig and BWH psychiatry colleague Samata Sharma, MD, explained in a 2018 paper on the neurobiological effects of music on the brain. It starts with sound waves entering the ear, striking the eardrum, and causing vibrations that are converted into electric signals. These signals travel by sensory nerves to the brainstem, the brain’s message relay station for auditory information. Then they disperse to activate auditory (hearing) cortices and many other parts of the brain. It is noteworthy that different parts of the brain are activated, depending on the type of music—for example, melodic versus dissonant—and whether we are listening, playing, learning, or composing music.

Music can alter brain structure and function, both after immediate and repeated exposure, according to Silbersweig. For example, musical training over time has been shown to increase the connectivity of certain brain regions. “If you play an instrument like the violin,” he said in a recent Zoom interview, “the areas in your brain that are associated with the frequencies of the violin are more stimulated and the synaptic connections are richer.”

These changes in brain circuitry and connectivity suggest opportunities to activate certain regions to promote healing, Silbersweig says. He and Haddad look forward to using cutting-edge brain research to build on what’s already known about the therapeutic power of music for patients with dementia, depression, and other neurological conditions. The pair note, for instance, that playing a march or other rhythmic piece for people with Parkinson’s disease stimulates the brain circuits that get them physically moving. Similarly, people with short-term memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease often recognize familiar songs like “Happy Birthday” because “that memory’s encoded into their brain’s long-term memory,”.

We may not realize it when listening to a favorite tune, but music activates many different parts of the brain, according to Harvard Medical School neurologist and psychiatrist David Silbersweig, MD. These include:

  • The temporal lobe, including specific temporal gyri (bulges on the side of the brain’s wrinkled surface) that help process tone and pitch.
  • The cerebellum, which helps process and regulate rhythm, timing, and physical movement.
  • The amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in emotions and memories.
  • Various parts of the brain’s reward system.

“All of these areas,” Silbersweig noted in a 2018 paper, “must work in concert to integrate the various layers of sound across space and time for us to perceive a series of sounds as a musical composition.”

Mozart Effect Phenomenon

The Mozart Effect (e.g., Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky, 1993) is the reported phenomenon that listening to Mozart would temporarily increase spatial reasoning ability by the equivalent of 8-9 points on the Stanford-Binet. Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky explain the Mozart Effect by suggesting that exposure to musical compositions that are structurally complex excites certain cortical firing patterns comparable to those activated when completing spatial-temporal tasks.


Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of Anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal – it can be completely debilitating.


Depression is a mental condition characterized by a persistently depressed mood and long-term loss of pleasure or interest in life, often with other symptoms such as disturbed sleep, feelings of guilt or inadequacy, and suicidal thoughts.

Music and Anxiety

Studies have shown that music can help reduce your daily stress and anxiety, but what about extremely traumatic or stressful events? How can one deal with that? Once again, music has an extremely positive effect on those who are suffering from traumatic experiences. Musical therapy has become an important topic in today’s world, with plenty of studies being done.

The evidence is there to support it as well, as those who have turned to music to deal with extreme events in their life have also noticed a significant decrease in the amount of anxiety they face. Studies are still being done; however, if you are suffering from a traumatic experience, go look into seeing a musical therapist. You will be pleased with the results and able to put all your bad memories behind you and move forward.

Music Psychology Center utilizes the following:

  1. Classical Music
  2. Solfeggio Frequencies
  3. Binaural Beats

While music has been shown to greatly help those suffering from anxiety and stress, it can also make things worse in certain conditions. Think of music and all of its different genres as different prescriptions. For each ailment that you suffer from, a different prescription is needed to cure it. If you try to cure something with an incorrect prescription, you can expect negative results from it.

The same goes for music. If someone is feeling sad or depressed, having them listen to melancholic music will only allow them to dive deeper into their emotions, greatening their anxiety and distress. For this reason, you have to look at what music is the best for the current situation and what music the person responds to. One person might be extremely relaxed by listening to classic rock sounds, while another one shows an extreme amount of anxiety and an increase in heart rate.

It is important to realize that everyone is different, and everyone will react differently. Finding what music works for you and other people is half the battle in combating stress and anxiety. At the same time, do not try to force your music onto someone else, thinking that it is the solution. Explore your situation and figure out what is best for you or the person you are trying to help. If done incorrectly, music can increase the anxiety and stress of the target person.

Now that you know more about the positive impact of music, the next step is finding music that can either work for you or someone that you are caring about. Don’t be afraid to change the genre up or introduce yourself to something new as long as you are documenting your results. Feel free to explore the world of music and use it as a way to feel better about yourself and the rest of the world. Think about it: what kind of music makes you feel better when you are feeling stressed or anxious?

Music Psychology Center Philippines 2022