Combination treatments seem to help people with moderate anxiety better than music alone

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Treatments incorporating music and auditory beat stimulation are effective in reducing state anxiety in some patients, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Adiel Mallik and Frank Russo of Ryerson University, Canada.

Anxiety has been on the rise, especially among teenagers and young adults, over the past few decades. Studies have already shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, perhaps even more effectively than some anti-anxiety medications. However, quantitative data on the effects of personalized music on anxiety are lacking.

In the new study, researchers randomized 163 patients taking anti-anxiety medication to participate in a home treatment session involving music, auditory beat stimulation, both, or pink noise – similar background sounds to white noise. The music was selected for each patient using LUCID’s artificial intelligence which organizes the music according to the patient’s emotional state and musical preferences. Auditory beat stimulation involves combinations of tones, played in one or both ears, designed to trigger changes in brain activity. In all groups, patients had to download a personalized app to their smartphone for the treatment, close their eyes and listen to a 24-minute session.

Among people with moderate anxiety before the treatment session, greater reductions in somatic anxiety – the physical symptoms of anxiety – were seen in people who listened to both music and ABS (p=0.04, effect size=0.83), or those who listened to music alone (p=0.05, effect size=0.52), compared with those who listened pink noise. The greatest reductions in cognitive state anxiety — the aspect of anxiety related to thoughts and feelings — were also seen in moderate-anxiety participants who listened to both music and music. ABS. Among those with a high pre-session anxiety trait, the music-only group had significantly greater reductions in anxiety than the ABS-only group (p = 0.04, effect size = 0.72).

The authors conclude that sound-based treatments can be effective in reducing state anxiety and potentially offer a simple and easily distributable method of treating anxiety in a segment of the population.

Drs. Russo and Malik add, “With the pandemic and remote working, there has been a remarkable increase in the use of digital health tools to support mental health. The results of this clinical trial show great promise for the use of digital health tools, such as LUCID’s Digital Music Therapy, in the management of anxiety and other mental health issues.”

“The results of this research are exciting because they indicate that personalized music holds great promise for effectively reducing anxiety in specific segments of the population that suffer from anxiety. the use of personalized music as an additional tool in the clinician’s toolkit that can be used to help reduce anxiety in the patient population.”

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