Listening to Verdi and Mozart could help prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.

Japanese scientists have discovered that exposure to classical music may have health benefits far beyond those previously documented.

We all know that classical music can act as a balm for the soul, but the findings of a study published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery suggests that it’s good for the ticker as well. The experiment, conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr Masanori Nimi, monitored the responses of mice to various sounds and genres of music after they underwent heart transplants from unrelated donors.

The rodents were divided into five groups exposed to opera (Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Sir Georg Solti), instrumental music (Mozart concertos), New Age music (The Best of Enya), monotone sound frequencies, or no music.

After several days’ convalescence under these conditions, the mice whose soundtracks featured Enya, one of the sound frequencies, or no music at all rejected the transplanted organs. Their hearts gave out 7.5 to 11 days after surgery.

By contrast, the researchers report that the mice exposed to Verdi or Mozart “had significantly prolonged survival”, up to 26.5 days for those listening to La Traviata and 20 days for the Mozartians.

Testing the effects of La Traviata on deaf mice, the scientists found that the music had little effect, concluding that hearing an aria, rather than simply feeling the vibrations of sound, accounted for the prolonged survival.

Blood samples from the mice revealed that the classical music may have had a hand in slowing organ rejection by calming the immune system.

Other possible benefits, the team notes, include “the effects on brain function produced by the specific harmony and/or other features of the music itself” and “a decrease in postoperative stress brought about by exposure to music”.

The team intends to embark on further testing to see whether the phenomenon could have similar results for human transplant patients.

The experiment’s detractors point out that testing a single work cannot yield conclusive results across a genre of music – doctors may not be prescribing John Cage as a postoperative treatment anytime soon.

Limelight investigates other scientific claims about the physical and mental benefits of listening to classical music here.