Music Therapy Reduces Depression & Anxiety through Changes in Alpha, Theta Waves | Print |  E-mail
Tuesday, 12 November 2013

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Investigators from the Department of Music at the University of Jyväskylä, in Jyväskylä, Finland conducted a two-armed, randomized, controlled trial (RCT) with 79 depressed clients who were also experiencing anxiety, in order to compare the impact of standard care versus Music Therapy (MT) in addition to Standard Care (SC), on symptoms.
The purpose of the study was to examine the mechanisms involved in any improvements that might result from Music Therapy, with particular focus on anterior frontotemporal resting state alpha and theta brain waves*.
Measures were taken at intake and after 3 months, using the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, along with EEG results.
The research team found that music therapy significantly reduced both depression and anxiety symptoms.

They explored correlations between anterior EEG, Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale-Anxiety Subscale (HADS-A), power spectral analysis (topography, means, asymmetry) and normative EEG database comparisons.
After 3 months of Music Therapy, lasting changes in resting EEG were observed (isignificant absolute power increases at left fronto-temporal alpha, but most distinct for theta (also at left fronto-central and right temporo-parietal leads).
Music Therapy differed from Standard Care, pointing towards decreased relative left-sided brain activity after Music Therapy, as well as reduced anxiety.
Verbal reflection and improvising on emotions in MT may induce neural reorganization in fronto-temporal areas. Alpha and theta changes in frontotemporal and temporoparietal areas indicate MT action and treatment effects on cortical activity in depression, suggesting an impact of MT on anxiety reduction.

Citation:  Fachner J, Gold C, Erkkilä J. Music therapy modulates frontotemporal activity in rest-EEG in depressed clients. Brain Topography. 2013 Apr;26 (2): pages 338-54.

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Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Donna Blanner, November 13, 2013
This sounds very interesting. I have generalized anxiety disorder. I use light therapy and am always interested in anything that helps without resorting to prescription drugs. How do we find out where to get this type of music.?Thank you
written by Belleruth, November 13, 2013
You can look up the current program, run by Toby Williams here: She incorporates guided imagery/meditation, toning and music with the integrative medicine program for cardio-thoracic surgery patients. There's also a fine book by Mitch Gaynor on using music therapy.

A lot of people use Steve Kohn's music to calm their anxiety and just have it as background music while working, as well as meditating (I do. The impact surprises me freshly every time!) He's produced a lot of wonderful music for us. You can listen to samples on our web pages, starting with Music for Meditation,
but do check out some of the others, too - hard to choose, they're all so good. Just love that guy's work. Settling and calming, but energizing too.
written by Jamie, November 25, 2013
You can find a board certified Music Therapist to work with, as listening to relaxing music is not the same as working with an MT. To find one in your area, go to and search and also visit for information about Music Therapy from our national association (AMTA).

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