Could listening to Mozart increase the effectiveness of your pain medication? A new study by researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, USA, found that listening to classical music increased the effectiveness of various pain medications on mice. The study, the results of which were published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, measured the effectiveness of different pain relief medications on mice, with and without classical music, and the effectiveness of music on seizure control in epilepsy.

Mozart, Pain Relief, Classical MusicWolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The researchers used two pain models, the carrageenan model, which simulates inflammation-related pain, and plantar incision, which simulates surgical pain. While the experimental group was exposed to a three-hour session of Mozart, daily, for three weeks, the control group was exposed to ambient noise. The study was run four times, with four different pain relief medications: ibuprofen, cannabidiol, levetiracetam, and NAX 5055. The mice treated with ibuprofen seemed to respond particularly well to music, with the group in the carrageenan model exhibiting a 90 percent reduction in pain responses compared with the mice given ibuprofen but not exposed to Mozart. Music and cannabidiol reduced swelling by 21 percent, while Mozart and NAX 5055 reduced swelling by nine percent. In the plantar incision model, music also reduced some responses to pain, though not all of them.

The playlist used in the experiments comprised music by Mozart that had previously been studied in clinical trials in people with epilepsy. All the compositions – which included concertos, sonatas and symphonies – were in major keys and “the order of compositions was selected to balance arousal and optimise transitions between individual musical pieces,” the researchers reported. The movements were organised in a fast-slow-fast “symphonic-based structure” and ordered by key corresponding to the cycle of fifths “to minimise any jarring transitions” and “minimise any potential stress on the mice.” Each piece was featured once, except for the first movement of Mozart’s K.448 Sonata for Two Pianos, the piece most frequently studied in clinical trials, which was used several times throughout the playlist.

While the researchers acknowledged the limitations of the study – which only used a small number of animals, a control group using only ambient noise (rather than comparing complete silence, white noise, or non-Mozart music), and a limited number of pain models, and one specific schedule of exposure to music – the results suggest there is more that can be learned about how music and pain relief medication can interact. This research may lead in time to improved pain treatment for humans in the future – potentially involving mobile medical apps and video games alongside traditional treatment – particularly significant in the context of the opioid epidemic in the USA.

“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,” the researchers concluded. “Music-based intervention can be integrated with other non-pharmacological modalities and delivered as digital therapeutics for pain, epilepsy, depression and other chronic medical conditions.”