11 Nevins Street
Boston, MA 02135
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The use of music therapy across healthcare is well-established. But what biological changes does music trigger to promote healing in patients? And do the effects extend to others involved in healthcare, such as family members and providers?
A lifelong pianist, Boston surgeon Claudius Conrad spends part of his research time working to answer these questions with evidence. He also seeks to restore an ancient tradition — the once common connection between music and how physicians train and practice.
While still a surgical resident, Dr. Conrad co-founded and directed the Music in Medicine Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. By then he had joined a small group of researchers developing a new field, one that investigated music’s apparent healing effects with rigorous scientific inquiry.
In a seminal study published in 2007, Dr. Conrad and his partners showed that slow movements from Mozart’s piano sonatas could lower stress hormones while raising growth hormones. Subjects also had lower blood pressure and heart rates, with less need for sedation. Dr. Conrad and his colleagues proposed a particular biology pathway for these health benefits.
Dr. Conrad draws parallels to playing piano and performing surgery — not just the precise hand control and tactile feedback, but the focus demanded by both.
In the operating room, he has studied the impact music — and specific components of music — can have on:
Dr. Conrad’s group is in constant contact with musical collaborators around the world to continue the conversation about further developing the field.