Music may or may not mend a broken heart. But newly published research suggests that, at least in mice, it can reduce rejection of heart transplants.
Writing in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, 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. Their hearts gave out 7.5 to 11 days after the transplant.
In contrast, those exposed to Verdi or Mozart “had significantly prolonged survival,” the researchers report. Median survival times were 26.5 days for those who heard Verdi and 20 days for those exposed to Mozart.
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.
“It appears possible that opera-induced regulatory cells may inhibit immune responses against allografts,” they write.
Other possible causes include “the effects on brain function produced by the specific harmony and/or other features of the music itself,” and “a decrease in postoperative stress brought about by exposure to music.”
In any event, this provides more evidence that classical music has a health-inducing impact on the body — one that was, at least for this group of mice, literally life-prolonging.