Limbic Medical

Healing Powers of Music and Ketamine to Treat Depression

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Publish date

01/11/2024

Music is one of humanity’s oldest art forms, with early musical instruments dating to 40,000 years ago.1 Music is also one of our most powerful art forms, with music long being recognized for its capacity to produce strong emotional reactions, from happy to sad, spiritual to haunting, rapturous to mellow.

But does music have healing properties as well? Could relief from depression be as close as your music player? Read on to learn more about the powerful link between music and your mental health.

How Music Helps With Depression

Understanding how music helps mitigate symptoms of depression provides us with valuable insights into depression itself. For example, depression often involves imbalances or disruptions in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play pivotal roles in regulating mood. Music has a unique ability to stimulate the release of these neurotransmitters, essentially acting as a natural mood enhancer.

Listening to upbeat and rhythmic music can trigger the brain to release dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. This biochemical response produces the heightened positive emotions we feel when listening to soaring, emotionally-charged music (like a powerful film score or symphony).

This dopamine release also helps counteract the lower-than-optimal dopamine levels that can occur with depression. As your brain responds to the beats and melodies, it triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that add up to a more positive emotional state.

Additionally, music creates a powerful distraction from negative thought patterns. When you are immersed in a captivating piece of music, your mind is temporarily redirected away from distressing thoughts, providing a respite from the grip of depression. We’ve all had the experience of feeling like we were transported elsewhere by a particularly moving piece of music. In people suffering from depression, that mental transportation is like taking a mental vacation from the grip of depression.

Music and Depression: What Does the Research Say?

The connection between music and mental health has been studied repeatedly, with researchers finding a significant link between music and a reduction in depressive symptoms.

In a 2017 meta-analysis study (a review of other studies previously published), researchers found that:

“music therapy provides short‐term beneficial effects for people with depression. Music therapy added to treatment as usual (TAU) seems to improve depressive symptoms compared with TAU alone . . . Music therapy also shows efficacy in decreasing anxiety levels and improving functioning of depressed individuals.”2

A 2020 meta-analysis study of 55 previously published studies found a similar result, with researchers finding that music therapy exhibited a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to a control group.3 The study also examined multiple different types of music therapy and found that music’s effect on depression varied based on the type of music therapy conducted, but found that all forms of music therapy had a positive benefit.

Music’s ability to alleviate depression is well-established, but exciting new research shows that music may actually be able to prevent depression and anxiety. The research is preliminary, and more research needs to be conducted, but an October 2023 study published in Translational Psychiatry found that music prevents stress-induced depression and anxiety in mice.4 Research studies in humans must be conducted before we can definitively say that music can prevent depression, but it is a promising finding.

Ketamine and Music: The Limbic Medical Approach to Treating Depression

The 2017 study referenced above, Music Therapy for Depression, found that music when combined with treatment had a more powerful effect than treatment alone. Essentially, music and ketamine are both effective at helping to alleviate depression and are even more effective when combined together.

At Limbic Medical, we use the power of music to treat patients with depression. While administering infusion ketamine treatments, our patients are encouraged to listen to music (we can recommend customized playlists to enhance the healing journey). We have found anecdotally that listening to music during ketamine treatment enhances the healing power of ketamine.

Additionally, listening to music often contributes to a state of relaxation that is ideal during a ketamine treatment.. Ketamine itself produces a sense of relaxation, and listening to music adds to the patient’s relaxation. During this relaxed state, patients can make rapid progress on healing from depression and anxiety.

Music plus medicine approach demonstrates our commitment to providing patients with every tool possible to help them on their journey to better mental health.

Depression and Anxiety Treatment in Los Angeles

Limbic Medical is known as the premier ketamine clinic in the Los Angeles area because we use scientifically-backed innovations – such as music – combined with evidence-based treatments, and patient-reported outcomes to achieve better results. Our patients benefit from our whole care, functional medicine approach to treating depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses.

Ketamine treatments are a key ingredient in helping patients, but it’s not the whole story. Where you receive ketamine treatment makes a difference. In Los Angeles, Limbic Medical is the preferred choice for patients seeking rapid relief from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, while supporting long-term changes through interdisciplinary functional medicine integration. Contact us today to learn more about our patient-first approach to care.

Sources:

1. “Art & Music | The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program.” Smithsonian’s Human Origins, 3 January 2024

2. “Music therapy for depression – PMC.” NCBI, 16 November 2017

3. “Effects of music therapy on depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” NCBI, 18 November 2020

4. “Music prevents stress-induced depression and anxiety-like behavior in mice.” nature.com, 13 November 2023

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