Of Mice and Music

My job keeps getting easier as my friends and readers start to send me email about studies they run across! Thank you to Teena Johnson for alerting me to Francesco Angelucci, Marco Fiore, Enzo Ricci, Luca Padua, Andrea Sabino, and Pietro Attilio Tonali:

It has been shown that music might be able to improve mood state in people affected by psychiatric disorders, ameliorate cognitive deficits in people with dementia and increase motor coordination in Parkinson patients. Robust experimental evidence explaining the central effects of music, however, is missing. This study was designed to investigate the effect of music on brain neurotrophin production and behavior in the mouse. We exposed young adult mice to music with a slow rhythm (6 h/day; mild sound pressure levels, between 50 and 60 db) for 21 consecutive days. At the end of the treatment, mice were tested for passive avoidance learning and then killed for analysis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in selected brain regions. We found that music-exposed mice showed increased BDNF, but not nerve growth factor in the hippocampus. Furthermore, we observed that music exposure significantly enhanced learning performance, as measured by the passive avoidance test. Our results demonstrate that exposure to music can modulate the activity of the hippocampus by influencing BDNF production. Our findings also suggest that music exposure might be of help in several central nervous system pathologies.

While I’m not a huge fan of sacrificing test animals, nor of animal testing in particular, if people are going to do it, then we should learn from it.

mice carrying musical instruments approach dog resting next to round table with lamp, and ask, the cat's away. what would you like to hear?

New Yorker Cartoon
Lee Lorenz

Mice exposed to slow rhythm music (slow tempo Baroque music is often recommended as a background to studying), show increased levels of neurotrophins in the hippocampus, which has been linked with memory and mood. It also significantly increased their ability to learn.

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