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The website Ludwig van Toronto (as in Ludwig van Beethoven) often has interesting posts about classical music, and if you’re on twitter, you can easily keep track of them via @LudwigVanTO. Recently, Anya Wassenberg reported on a study showing how classical music, as long as it’s not too loud, can help surgeons doing surgery,

“Going for surgery anytime soon? It’s probably a good idea to suggest that your surgeon listen to a little Mozart or Bach during the operation — but not too loud. They’ll be faster and more accurate — that’s the recommendation distilled from a recent scientific research study.

“The study was recently published in the International Journal of Surgery, and involved researchers from Scotland, Sweden, and Finland. The new paper reviews existing research data. After evaluating 18 international studies, nine articles with a total of 212 participants were included in the review.

“As the study noted, music is already played in operating theatres as a matter of course by most doctors and nurses — about two-thirds, as it turns out. Participants said that listening to music reduced stress and made them feel more relaxed. Patients also reported that music played before their surgeries reduced stress levels.

“Almost all the respondents preferred classical music of some kind, with a slight preference for Mozart piano sonatas. Classical music was used in six of the studies, and music of choice in the others.

“The results of the study also seem to favour classical music played at medium to low volume levels, with hip hop coming in second in some key areas of the study. However, researchers also noted that music can have a mixed effect. At times, it can be distracting, and affect communication between members of the surgical team. …

“The paper notes the so-called ‘Mozart effect’ — that classical music reduces stress and helps the surgeons to focus — but it’s a difficult premise to prove. Specifically, surgical procedures were completed up to 10 percent quicker, and the quality of work such as skin repairs was higher.

Patients also seem to benefit. They need less anaesthetic and fewer painkillers.

“Turn the music too loud, however, and it can have the opposite effect. Loud or what is called ‘high-beat’ music can actually cause an increase in post-operative infections. It can also lead to miscommunications between members of the surgical team, which, as the researchers note, is one of the leading causes of mistakes. …

“The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that music in operating theatres not exceed 30 decibels.

“Researchers cautioned that the settings used in the study were simulated rather than live surgery, and noted the relatively low number of participants. However, they were optimistic about the positive effects of music during surgery.

“The practice of listening to music during surgery is, according to the British Medical Journal, thousands of years old, dating as far back as 4000 BC to a time when priests and musicians played harp and other instruments during medical procedures.”

More at Ludwig van Toronto, here.

What music calms your nerves? I am surprised about hip hop mainly because I think words in music would be distracting for a surgeon, but everyone is different. One friend is actually peaceful in an MRI because she says she doesn’t have to worry about anything, just listen to her beloved Miles Davis.

 

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Photo: Linda Ibbotson
Recent research has found that music-based therapy may be a suitable alternative to anti-anxiety benzodiazepines administered to patients before an operation.

Years ago, after my own bout with cancer — a kind that, unlike my sister’s, is often curable — I took a dance class with patients and former patients. There was one elderly woman whose cancer was quite advanced.

One day, her daughter, who was also in the class, told us her mother was lying in bed upstairs in the hospital and had been unconscious for hours. The teacher suggested we take the music and our dance moves upstairs and perform the familiar, gentle routines at her bedside. It was quite a lovely moment.

Since then I have heard of church groups and nonchurch groups that sing at bedsides, and I have come to believe that even a patient who shows no clear response can hear and appreciate the music.

In this story from the Irish Times, music is also being used to calm patients before surgery.

Emer Moreau writes, “Music-based therapy may be a suitable alternative to anti-anxiety benzodiazepines administered to patients before an operation, new research has found.

“Results of a clinical trial published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) showed listening to music had similar effects to that of a sedative offered to calm the nerves before the use of regional anaesthesia.

“The trial, carried out in the University of Pennsylvania, had 157 participants randomly assigned to receive either 1-2mg of midazolam, a type of benzodiazepine, or to listen to Marconi Union’s Weightless series of music. The track is considered to be one of the most relaxing in the world.

“Both groups showed similar reductions in pre-operative anxiety among participants.

“Anxiety is common among patients due to undergo an operation, and can affect postoperative recovery due to increased levels of stress hormones in the body. …

“There are currently 88 music therapists in Ireland, who work in a variety of contexts, including educational settings, care for dementia patients, palliative care, neo-natal settings, oncology, burn treatment, acquired brain injury and stroke. Dr Hilary Moss, the Course Director for the MA in Music Therapy in the University of Limerick, said that music therapy is usually employed alongside other treatments, rather than replacing them.

“The therapy works by ‘engaging in enjoyable activity to change our perception of pain,’ she said. ‘It’s not a cure, but it helps – many patients show significant improvement.’

More here.

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Photo: The Book Catapult
When a co-owner of the Book Catapult fell ill at the same time as the only full-time employee, rival bookstores in San Diego kept the shop open. (Pictured: The Book Catapult co-owners Seth Marko and Jennifer Powell, Marko’s wife.)

Never give up on humanity. In a February story at Publisher’s Weekly [PW], Claire Kirch reported on the selflessness of some booksellers in San Diego. Of course, we know that book people are remarkable folks, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that most people show kindness at some point in their lives.

Here’s what happened when a bookshop owner had emergency heart surgery while his only full-time employee was suffering from bird flu.

“The bad news coming out of the Book Catapult in San Diego’s South Park neighborhood,” wrote Kirch, “is that co-owner Seth Marko underwent emergency surgery immediately following his return home from Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, after suffering chest pains while there. Plus, the two-year-old store’s only full-time employee, Vanessa Diaz, came home from WI14 with a case of bird flu, or as she called it, ‘the Albuquerque swine flu.’

“The good news is that six booksellers from four other San Diego-area bookstores — The Library Shop, Warwick’s Bookshop, the University of California-San Diego’s bookstore, and Adventures by the Book — have volunteered their time for more than a week to keep the Book Catapult open during its regular hours, while Marko’s spouse, store co-owner Jennifer Powell, tends to him. (Marko left the hospital Wednesday). Another pair of booksellers, John Evans and Alison Reid, the two co-owners of Diesel: A Bookstore in Los Angeles, have committed to volunteering at the Book Catapult this weekend. [Ingram Publisher Services personnel pitched in later.]

 ‘It’s a story of redemption and hope,’ joked Library Shop manager Scott Ehrig-Burgess, who coordinated the volunteers and, he says, trained them on the store’s [Point of Sale] system. …

“ ‘I’ve had to turn away volunteers, from former booksellers to people who know nothing about books but want to help out,’ Ehrig-Burgess said. ‘We’re a close-knit community.’

“As for Evans, he says that he and Reid are driving down from L.A. to help out because Marko and Powell ‘are great people, fellow booksellers, [who] created a wonderful bookstore in their neighborhood and this health crisis just came out of nowhere. They are much-loved in the book community in Southern California, with Seth having various roles over the years in keeping the book culture vital, fun, and interesting.’

“Andrea Vuleta, the head of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, told PW, ‘I am so pleased to see such warmth, community, and fellowship among our bookseller membership. I think it is one of best things about indies, the mutual support. Definitely something to be thankful for these days.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Katie Leigh

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Today is July 11th. A week ago, my sister was feeling fine. Today she is having brain surgery. I arrived in New York yesterday to be with her and her husband.

It may be that I don’t post for a while. I’m feeling a little discombobulated. But I do like posting, so you could at least get pictures of New York City over the next couple days.

My sister is a lot younger than me. This feels all wrong. But life is strange that way.

If you are into sending people healing thoughts, please think of us at 2 p.m.

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Mice find Verdi and Mozart more healing than Enya. Tom Jacobs at Miller-McCune (now called Pacific Standard) explains.

“Writing in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery,” he says, “a team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Masanori Nimi describe an experiment in which a group of 8- to 12-week-old mice underwent heart transplants. The rodents were randomly assigned to one of five groups: those exposed to opera (a recording of Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Sir Georg Solti); instrumental music by Mozart; New Age music (The Best of Enya); no music; or ‘one of six different sound frequencies.’

“After one week, the mice whose personal soundtrack featured Enya, one of the sound frequencies, or no music at all ‘rejected their grafts acutely,’ the researchers report. …

“In contrast, those exposed to Verdi or Mozart ‘had significantly prolonged survival.’ …

“In explaining the results, the researchers point to the immune system. They report exposure to classical music generated regulatory cells, which suppress immune responses and are thus vital to preventing rejection of a transplanted organ. …

“In any event, this provides more evidence that classical music has a health-inducing impact on the body.” Read more.

Hmmm. You want to suppress your immune system when you have a transplant because you don’t want your body to reject an organ from a donor. But suppose you want a strong immune system for some other reason? Would classical music be bad for you (or a mouse) in that case? Hard to get my head around that one.

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