Classical Music-Based Interventions for Chronic Pain

Exposure to certain classical music pieces may have an analgesic effect in a mouse model of inflammatory pain and be associated with reduced allodynia in a mouse model of surgical pain, according to a study published in Frontiers in Neurology.

In the current study, researchers examined whether antiseizure and analgesic effects of classical music may have beneficial effects in mouse models of pain and epilepsy to explore new opportunities for the development of mobile health technologies and digital therapeutics that may be leveraged for the treatment of these neurological disorders. A playlist with a modular progression of Mozart compositions previously shown to reduce seizures and epileptiform discharges in individuals with epilepsy was used to test the effects of music on mouse models of pain and epilepsy.

Mice were exposed daily to music for >21 consecutive days or were maintained in ambient noise in standard housing conditions. Analgesic drugs tested were levetiracetam, cannabidiol (CBD), ibuprofen, and the galanin analog NAX 5055.

Mice exposed to the music showed analgesic effects and reduction of paw edema in the carrageenan model of inflammatory pain. Among analgesic drugs tested, music intervention led to decreased paw withdrawal latency difference in mice treated with ibuprofen and to reduced paw edema in combination with NAX 5055 or CBD. Mice pretreated with music had reductions in mechanical allodynia in the plantar incision model of surgical pain. The cumulative seizure burden following kindling acquisition was lower in animals exposed vs not exposed to music in the corneal kindling model of epilepsy. Music-treated mice also had improved survival rates, warranting further research on music interventions for the prevention of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. Investigators propose a working model for exerting responses via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and parasympathetic nervous system using musical elements such as sequences, rhythm, punctuation, and phrases found in Mozart’s K.448 and K.545.

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“Our current study suggest that music-enhanced analgesia may lead to novel combination therapies comprising music and analgesic drugs, whereas similar combinations for the treatment of epileptic seizures need to be further investigated. Music-based intervention can be integrated with other nonpharmacological modalities and delivered as digital therapeutic for pain, epilepsy, depression and other chronic medical conditions. This work opens new opportunities for employing music and [enriched environment] as surrogate for discovering synergistic effects between nonpharmacological and pharmacological interventions and leading to innovative drug-device combination therapies for chronic disorders,” concluded the investigators.

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Metcalf CS, Huntsman M, Garcia G, et al. Music-enhanced analgesia and antiseizure activities in animal models of pain and epilepsy: toward preclinical studies supporting development of digital therapeutics and their combinations with pharmaceutical drugs [published online March 27, 2019]. Front Neurol. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2019.00277