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Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Musicophilia front cover.jpg
AuthorOliver Sacks
Cover artistChip Kidd
Publication date
781/.11 22
LC ClassML3830 .S13 2007
Preceded byOaxaca Journal (2002) 
Followed byThe Mind's Eye (2010) 

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain is a 2007 book by neurologist Oliver Sacks about music and the human brain. The book was released on October 16, 2007 and published by Knopf. Four case studies from the book are featured in the NOVA program Musical Minds aired on June 30, 2009.


In a review for The Washington Post, Peter D. Kramer wrote, "In Musicophilia, Sacks turns to the intersection of music and neurology -- music as affliction and music as treatment." Kramer wrote, "Lacking the dynamic that propels Sacks's other work, Musicophilia threatens to disintegrate into a catalogue of disparate phenomena." Kramer went on to say, "What makes Musicophilia cohere is Sacks himself. He is the book's moral argument. Curious, cultured, caring, in his person Sacks justifies the medical profession and, one is tempted to say, the human race." Kramer concluded his review by writing, "Sacks is, in short, the ideal exponent of the view that responsiveness to music is intrinsic to our makeup. He is also the ideal guide to the territory he covers. Musicophilia allows readers to join Sacks where he is most alive, amid melodies and with his patients."[1]

Musicophilia was listed as one of the best books of 2007 by The Washington Post.[2]

Studies on the Effects of Music Therapy[edit]

   Since the 1970’s, there have been multiple studies on the benefits of music therapy for clients with medical conditions, trauma, learning disabilities, and handicaps. Most of the documented studies for children have shown a positive effect in promoting self-actualization and developing receptive, cognitive, and expressive capabilities.[3][4] While the studies conducted with adults 18+ had overall positive effects, the conclusions were limited because of overt bias and small sample sizes.

    Since music is a fundamental aspect of every culture, it embodies every human emotion and even can transport us to an earlier time, an earlier memory. Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia, acknowledges the unconscious effects of music as our body tends to join in the rhythmic motions involuntarily.[5] Working with clients with a variety of neurological conditions, Sacks observed the therapeutic potential and susceptibility to music. Even with the loss of language, music becomes the vehicle for expression, feeling, and interaction.

    Well-known music therapists Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins documented their work with audio recordings and videos of the transformative results of music with children who had emotional or behavioral problems, traumatic experiences, or handicaps. Robbins classifies the “Music Child” as the inner self in every child that evokes a healthy musical response.[3] It is music that becomes the catalyst for discovering the child’s potential. In essence, musical play creates an atmosphere that emboldens a child to free expression and reproductive skills. Sometimes family members observe immediate effects because selfhood is encouraged and nurtured and thus a child’s personality develops in response to music.  

    First, the music therapist assesses each client to determine impairments, preferences, and skill level. Notably, every person appreciates different musical genres. Next, treatment is determined based on individualized goals and selection as well as frequency and length of sessions. Finally, the progress of the client is evaluated and updated based on effectiveness. Although sessions are typically structured, therapist also remain flexible and try to meet clients where they are at emotionally and physically.

    When music therapy was first introduced in tandem with other medical fields, it was mostly receptive and patients listened to live solo performances or pre-recorded songs. Today, music therapist allow for more creative interactions by having clients improvise, reproduce music or imitate melodies vocally or with an instrument, compose their own songs, and/or listen during artistic expression or with movement.  

       Recently, there have been multiple studies on the effects of music with chemo patients, stroke patients,[6][7] patients with alzheimer,[8] spinal or brain injury,[9][10] and hospice patients.[11] According to a 2017 report from Magee, Clark, Tamplin, and Bradt,[12] a common theme of all their studies was the positive effect music had on mood, mental and physical state, increase in motivation and social engagement, and a connection with the client’s musical identity. From 2008-2012, the Department of Oncology/ Hematology of the University Medical Center in Hamburg-Eppendorf orchestrated a randomized pilot study to determine if music therapy helped patients cope with pain and reduce chemotherapy side effects.[13] The sessions were given twice a week for twenty minutes and patients could choose either receptive or active methods. Each week, the quality of life, functioning ability and level of depression/anxiety were assessed. Although emotional functioning scores increased and perception of pain improved significantly, they determined the outcome was inconclusive because patients have differing levels of manageable side effects and a hope to survive may influence expectations of treatment. However, patients rated the program helpful and potentially beneficial. Moreover, the feasibility of these studies allows for music therapists to practice in educational, psychiatric, medical, and private settings. Although there haven’t been any statistical significance based on few empirical adult studies, the trend shows improvements on most measures.


  1. ^ Peter D. Kramer (2007-10-28). "Melodies and Maladies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  2. ^ "Book World's Holiday Issue". The Washington Post. 2007-12-02. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  3. ^ a b Guerrero, Nina; Turry, Alan; Geller, Daniel; Raghavan, Preeti (2014). "From Historic to Contemporary: Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy in Collaborative Interdisciplinary Rehabilitation". Music Therapy Perspectives. 32 (1): 38–46. doi:10.1093/mtp/miu014. ISSN 0734-6875.
  4. ^ Bruscia, Kenneth. (2014). Case Studies in Music Therapy. Barcelona Publishers. ISBN 978-1-891278-60-0. OCLC 956277739.
  5. ^ Sacks, Oliver, 1933-2015, author., Musicophilia, OCLC 1107668220, retrieved 2019-12-04CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Kim, Dong Soo; Park, Yoon Ghil; Choi, Jung Hwa; Im, Sang-Hee; Jung, Kang Jae; Cha, Young A; Jung, Chul Oh; Yoon, Yeo Hoon (2011). "Effects of Music Therapy on Mood in Stroke Patients". Yonsei Medical Journal. 52 (6): 977. doi:10.3349/ymj.2011.52.6.977. ISSN 0513-5796. PMC 3220261. PMID 22028163.
  7. ^ Poćwierz-Marciniak, Ilona; Bidzan, Mariola (2017). "The influence of music therapy on quality of life after a stroke". Health Psychology Report. 2: 173–185. doi:10.5114/hpr.2017.63936. ISSN 2353-4184.
  8. ^ Hsiung, Ging-Yuek; Kirkland, Kevin; Hswen, Yulin; Slack, Penelope J.; Summers, Susan; Boyd, Lara; Jacova, Claudia (July 2013). "A pilot, randomized study of music therapy for people with Alzheimer's disease". Alzheimer's & Dementia. 9 (4): P477. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2013.05.972.
  9. ^ Mondanaro, John; Loewy, Joanne (2015-07-09). "Music Therapy with Adolescents in Medical Settings". Oxford Handbooks Online. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199639755.013.43.
  10. ^ Rebecca, West; Michael, J. Silverman (February 2020). "A music therapy feasibility study with adults on a hospital neuroscience unit: Investigating service user technique choices and immediate effects on mood and pain". The Arts in Psychotherapy. 67: 101585. doi:10.1016/j.aip.2019.101585.
  11. ^ Porter, Sam; McConnell, Tracey; Graham-Wisener, Lisa; Regan, Joan; McKeown, Miriam; Kirkwood, Jenny; Clarke, Mike; Gardner, Evie; Dorman, Saskie; McGrillen, Kerry; Reid, Joanne (December 2018). "A randomised controlled pilot and feasibility study of music therapy for improving the quality of life of hospice inpatients". BMC Palliative Care. 17 (1): 125. doi:10.1186/s12904-018-0378-1. ISSN 1472-684X. PMC 6260709. PMID 30482192.
  12. ^ Magee, Wendy L; Clark, Imogen; Tamplin, Jeanette; Bradt, Joke (2017-01-20). Cochrane Stroke Group (ed.). "Music interventions for acquired brain injury". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006787.pub3. PMC 6464962. PMID 28103638.
  13. ^ Kordovan, Sarah; Preissler, Pia; Kamphausen, Anne; Bokemeyer, Carsten; Oechsle, Karin (April 2016). "Prospective Study on Music Therapy in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients during Specialized Inpatient Palliative Care". Journal of Palliative Medicine. 19 (4): 394–399. doi:10.1089/jpm.2015.0384. ISSN 1096-6218.

Can music therapy alleviate psychological, cognitive, and behavioral impairment in epilepsy?[1]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Raglio, A.; Farina, E.; Giovagnoli, A.R. (February 2014). "Can music therapy alleviate psychological, cognitive, and behavioral impairment in epilepsy?". Epilepsy & Behavior. 31: 7–8. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2013.10.008.