Some people really just don’t like music

It is often said that music is a universal language. However, a new report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on March 6 finds that music doesn’t speak to everyone. There are people who are perfectly able to experience pleasure in other ways who simply don’t get music in the way the rest of us do.The researchers refer to this newly described condition as specific musical anhedonia — in other words, the specific inability to experience pleasure from music.”The identification of these individuals could be very important to understanding the neural basis of music — that is, to understand how a set of notes [is] translated into emotions,” says Josep Marco-Pallars of the University of Barcelona.The researchers previously found hints about this form of anhedonia after they developed a questionnaire to evaluate individual differences in musical reward. Those evaluations found some individuals who reported low sensitivity to music but average sensitivity to other kinds of reward. But multiple explanations are possible for these low music sensitivities. For instance, some people might seem to dislike music because they have trouble perceiving it, a condition called amusia. Or maybe some people simply answered the questions inaccurately.In the current study, the research team decided to look more closely at three groups of ten people, with each group consisting of participants with high pleasure ratings in response to music, average pleasure ratings in response to music, or low sensitivity to musical reward, respectively. Participants in the three groups were chosen based on their comparable overall sensitivity to other types of rewards and their ability to perceive music.Subjects participated in two different experiments: a music task, in which they had to rate the degree of pleasure they were experiencing while listening to pleasant music, and a monetary incentive delay task, in which participants had to respond quickly to a target in order to win or avoid losing real money. Both tasks have been shown to engage reward-related neural circuits and produce a rush of dopamine. Meanwhile, the researchers recorded changes of skin conductance response and heart rate as physiologic indicators of emotion.The results were clear: some otherwise healthy and happy people do not enjoy music and show no autonomic responses to its sound, despite normal musical perception capacities. …

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Musical ages: How our taste in music changes over a lifetime

Oct. 15, 2013 — The explosion in music consumption over the last century has made ‘what you listen to’ an important personality construct — as well as the root of many social and cultural tribes — and, for many people, their self-perception is closely associated with musical preference. We would perhaps be reluctant to admit that our taste in music alters — softens even — as we get older.Now, a new study suggests that — while our engagement with it may decline — music stays important to us as we get older, but the music we like adapts to the particular ‘life challenges’ we face at different stages of our lives.It would seem that, unless you die before you get old, your taste in music will probably change to meet social and psychological needs.One theory put forward by researchers, based on the study, is that we come to music to experiment with identity and define ourselves, and then use it as a social vehicle to establish our group and find a mate, and later as a more solitary expression of our intellect, status and greater emotional understanding.Researchers say the study is the first to “comprehensively document” the ways people engage with music “from adolescence to middle age.” The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.Using data gathered from more than a quarter of a million people over a ten year period, researchers divided musical genres into five broad, “empirically derived” categories they call the MUSIC model — mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated, intense, contemporary — and plotted the patterns of preference across age-groups.These five categories incorporate multiple genres that share common musical and psychological traits — such as loudness and complexity.”The project started with a common conception that musical taste does not evolve after young adulthood. Most academic research to date supported this claim, but — based on other areas of psychological research and our own experiences — we were not convinced this was the case,” said Arielle Bonneville-Roussy from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, who led the study.The study found that, unsurprisingly, the first great musical age is adolescence — defined by a short, sharp burst of ‘intense’ and the start of a steady climb of ‘contemporary’. ‘Intense’ music — such as punk and metal — peaks in adolescence and declines in early adulthood, while ‘contemporary’ music — such as pop and rap — begins a rise that plateaus until early middle age.”Teenage years are often dominated by the need to establish identity, and music is a cheap, effective way to do this,” said Dr Jason Rentfrow, senior researcher on the study.”Adolescents’ quest for independence often takes the shape of a juxtaposed stance to the perceived ‘status quo’, that of parents and the establishment. ‘Intense’ music, seen as aggressive, tense and characterised by loud, distorted sounds has the rebellious connotations that allow adolescents to stake a claim for the autonomy that is one of this period’s key ‘life challenges’.”As ‘intense’ gives way to the rising tide of ‘contemporary’ and introduction of ‘mellow’ — such as electronic and R & B — in early adulthood, the next musical age emerges. These two “preference dimensions” are considered “romantic, emotionally positive and danceable,” write the researchers.”Once people overcome the need for autonomy, the next ‘life challenge’ concerns finding love and being loved — people who appreciate this ‘you’ that has emerged,” said Rentfrow.”What we took away from the results is that these forms of music reinforce the desire for intimacy and complement settings where people come together with the goal of establishing close relationships — parties, bars, clubs and so on.”Whereas the first musical age is about asserting independence, the next appears to be more about gaining acceptance from others.”As we settle down and middle age begins to creep in, the last musical age, as identified by the researchers, is dominated by ‘sophisticated’ — such as jazz and classical — and ‘unpretentious’ — such as country, folk and blues.Researchers write that both these dimensions are seen as “positive and relaxing” — with ‘sophisticated’ indicating the complex aesthetic of high culture that could be linked to social status and perceived intellect, while ‘unpretentious’ echoes sentiments of family, love and loss — emotionally direct music that speaks to the experiences most will have had by this life stage.”As we settle into ourselves and acquire more resources to express ourselves — career, home, family, car — music remains an extension of this, and at this stage there are aspects of wanting to promote social status, intellect and wealth that play into the increased gravitation towards ‘sophisticated’ music,” said Rentfrow, “as social standing is seen as a key ‘life challenge’ to be achieved by this point.””At the same time, for many this life stage is frequently exhausted by work and family, and there is a requirement for relaxing, emotive music for those rare down times that reflects the other major ‘life challenge’ of this stage — that of nurturing a family and maintaining long-term relationships, perhaps the hardest of all.”Adds Bonneville-Roussy: “Due to our very large sample size, gathered from online forms and social media channels, we were able to find very robust age trends in musical taste. I find it fascinating to see how seemingly trivial behaviour such as music listening relates to so many psychological aspects, such as personality and age.”

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Reward with Music

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Doctor turns to singing and social media to change medical practice

Sep. 10, 2013 — A doctor from the UK has shown how an innovative music video can help increase awareness of how to treat asthma.Dr Tapas Mukherjee, from Glenfield Hospital in the UK, produced and starred in a music video to draw attention to new guidelines showing a better way of managing asthma.A study presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona today, has demonstrated the success of this video and suggests that social media can be used to successfully improve medical practice.In April 2012, an audit at Dr Mukherjee’s hospital highlighted a lack of knowledge in acute severe asthma management. Only 45% of healthcare professionals had used hospital guidelines on the management of asthma and only 62% were aware of them.The guidelines were translated into memorable lyrics, with Dr Mukherjee singing the advice on how to treat acute asthma. The video was posted on the social media sites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.A repeat audit was carried out in June 2012. When comparing the results to the previous audit in April, the study found that 100% of healthcare professionals were aware of the guidelines. All aspects of asthma management and knowledge had improved, with the most significant improvements seen for chest radiograph indication and target oxygen saturation.Dr Mukherjee said: “Our study has shown that social media can help to change clinical practice, with 100% awareness of the new guidelines in the post-analysis. As doctors are often working in busy environments, we have to think of creative ways of reaching them with important clinical information. Our study has shown that social media is a free and effective way of doing this. The method could be adapted to different scenarios and the possibilities are not limited by resources of money, but only by imagination.”The video can be seen at: http://www.europeanlung.org/en/news-and-events/media-centre/press-releases/doctor-turns-to-singing-and-social-media-to-change-medical-practice

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Transparent artificial muscle plays music to prove a point

Aug. 29, 2013 — In a materials science laboratory at Harvard University, a transparent disk connected to a laptop fills the room with music — it’s the “Morning” prelude from Peer Gynt, played on an ionic speaker.No ordinary speaker, it consists of a thin sheet of rubber sandwiched between two layers of a saltwater gel, and it’s as clear as a window. A high-voltage signal that runs across the surfaces and through the layers forces the rubber to rapidly contract and vibrate, producing sounds that span the entire audible spectrum, 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz.But this is not an electronic device, nor has it ever been seen before. Published in the August 30 issue of Science, it represents the first demonstration that electrical charges carried by ions, rather than electrons, can be put to meaningful use in fast-moving, high-voltage devices.”Ionic conductors could replace certain electronic systems; they even offer several advantages,” says co-lead author Jeong-Yun Sun, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).For example, ionic conductors can be stretched to many times their normal area without an increase in resistivity — a problem common in stretchable electronic devices. Secondly, they can be transparent, making them well suited for optical applications. Thirdly, the gels used as electrolytes are biocompatible, so it would be relatively easy to incorporate ionic devices — such as artificial muscles or skin — into biological systems.After all, signals carried by charged ions are the electricity of the human body, allowing neurons to share knowledge and spurring the heart to beat. Bioengineers would dearly love to mesh artificial organs and limbs with that system.”The big vision is soft machines,” says co-lead author Christoph Keplinger, who worked on the project as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard SEAS and in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. “Engineered ionic systems can achieve a lot of functions that our body has: they can sense, they can conduct a signal, and they can actuate movement. We’re really approaching the type of soft machine that biology has to offer.”The audio speaker represents a robust proof of concept for ionic conductors because producing sounds across the entire audible spectrum requires both high voltage (to squeeze hard on the rubber layer) and high-speed actuation (to vibrate quickly) — two criteria which are important for applications but which would have ruled out the use of ionic conductors in the past.The traditional constraints are well known: high voltages can set off electrochemical reactions in ionic materials, producing gases and burning up the materials. Ions are also much larger and heavier than electrons, so physically moving them through a circuit is typically slow. …

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Now hear this: Scientists discover compound to prevent noise-related hearing loss

Aug. 29, 2013 — Your mother was right when she warned you that loud music could damage your hearing, but now scientists have discovered exactly what gets damaged and how. In a research report published in the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists describe exactly what type of damage noise does to the inner ear, and provide insights into a compound that may prevent noise-related damage.Share This:”Noise-induced hearing loss, with accompanying tinnitus and sound hypersensitivity is a common condition which leads to communication problems and social isolation,” said Xiaorui Shi, M.D., Ph.D., study author from the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the Oregon Hearing Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. “The goal of our study is to understand the molecular mechanisms well enough to mitigate damage from exposure to loud sound.”To make this discovery, Shi and colleagues used three groups of 6 — 8 week old mice, which consisted of a control group, a group exposed to broadband noise at 120 decibels for three hours a day for two days, and a third group given single-dose injections of pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) prior to noise exposure. PEDF is a protein found in vertebrates that is currently being researched for the treatment of diseases like heart disease and cancer. The cells that secrete PEDF in control animals showed a characteristic branched morphology, with the cells arranging in a self-avoidance pattern which provided good coverage of the capillary wall. The morphology of the same cells in the animals exposed to wide-band noise, however, showed clear differences — noise exposure caused changes in melanocytes located in the inner ear.”Hearing loss over time robs people of their quality of life,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. “It’s easy to say that we should avoid loud noises, but in reality, this is not always possible. Front-line soldiers or first responders do not have time to worry about the long-term effects of loud noise when they are giving their all. If, however, a drug could be developed to minimize the negative effects of loud noises, it would benefit one and all.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. …

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Teen driver music preferences increase errors and distractibility

Aug. 23, 2013 — Teens listening to their preferred music while driving commit a greater number of errors and miscalculations, according to a new study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers that will be published in the October issue of Accident Analysis and Prevention.Male novice drivers in particular make more frequent and serious mistakes listening to their preferred music than their less aggressive, female counterparts, the researchers noted.The BGU study evaluated 85 young novice drivers accompanied by a researcher/driving instructor. Each driver took six challenging 40-minute trips; two with music from their own playlists; two with background music designed to increase driver safety (easy listening, soft rock, light jazz), and two additional trips without any music.The study was conducted by BGU Director of Music Science Research Warren Brodsky and researcher Zack Slor to assess distraction by measuring driver deficiencies (miscalculation, inaccuracy, aggressiveness, and violations) as well as decreased vehicle performance.When the teen drivers listened to their preferred music, virtually all (98 percent) demonstrated an average of three deficient driving behaviors in at least one of the trips. Nearly a third of those (32 percent) required a a sudden verbal warning or command for action, and 20 percent needed an assisted steering or braking maneuver to prevent an imminent accident. These errors included speeding, tailgating, careless lane switching, passing vehicles and one-handed driving.Without listening to any music, 92 percent made errors. However, when driving with an alternative music background designed by Brodsky and Israeli music composer Micha Kisner, deficient driving behaviors decreased by 20 percent.”Most drivers worldwide prefer to listen to music in a car and those between ages 16 to 30 choose driving to pop, rock, dance, hip-hop and rap,” Brodsky explains. “Young drivers also tend to play this highly energetic, fast-paced music very loudly — approximately 120 to 130 decibels.””Drivers in general are not aware that as they get drawn-in by a song, they move from an extra-personal space involving driving tasks, to a more personal space of active music listening.”

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This is your brain on Vivaldi and Beatles

Aug. 7, 2013 — Listening to music activates large networks in the brain, but different kinds of music are processed differently. A team of researchers from Finland, Denmark and the UK has developed a new method for studying music processing in the brain during a realistic listening situation. Using a combination of brain imaging and computer modeling, they found areas in the auditory, motor, and limbic regions to be activated during free listening to music. They were furthermore able to pinpoint differences in the processing between vocal and instrumental music.Share This:The new method helps us to understand better the complex brain dynamics of brain networks and the processing of lyrics in music. The study was published in the journal NeuroImage.Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the research team, led by Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, recorded the brain responses of individuals while they were listening to music from different genres, including pieces by Antonio Vivaldi, Miles Davis, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Shadows, Astor Piazzolla, and The Beatles. Following this, they analyzed the musical content of the pieces using sophisticated computer algorithms to extract musical features related to timbre, rhythm and tonality. Using a novel cross-validation method, they subsequently located activated brain areas that were common across the different musical stimuli.The study revealed that activations in several areas in the brain belonging to the auditory, limbic, and motor regions were activated by all musical pieces. …

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We don’t like unfamiliar music, even though we claim we do

July 23, 2013 — Spotify. Pandora. iTunes. YouTube.We are constantly bombarded with a seemingly limitless amount of new music in our daily lives. But why do we keep coming back to that one song or album we couldn’t get enough of in college?New research from Washington University’s Olin Business School shows that although consumers say they prefer to listen to unfamiliar music, their choices actually belie that preference.The study, “The Same Old Song: The Power of Familiarity in Music Choice,” could have implications for marketers and the playlists, events, venues and products which they choose to advertise.”In three studies, we examined the power of familiarity on music choice and showed that familiarity is a more important driver of music choice than more obvious, and commonly tested, constructs such as liking and satiation, i.e., being ‘sick of’ certain music,” says Joseph K. Goodman, PhD, associate professor of marketing at Olin and co-author of the study, along with Morgan Ward of Southern Methodist University and Julie Irwin of University of Texas at Austin.”Our results suggest that the emphasis on novelty in the music domain, by consumers and people often protesting the current state of the music business, is probably misplaced,” Goodman says. “In the marketplace, and in our pilot study, consumers say that they want more novelty when in fact their choices suggest they do not.”The study shows that consumers pick music they are familiar with even when they believe they would prefer less familiar music.Goodman suggests that based on the findings marketers should continue to promote what is familiar to consumers, even though it might not be the most liked. In addition, managers and artists should not underestimate the power of familiarity when promoting their music.He says that though the studies show the importance of familiarity in music, it also shows that there is a place for new music as well. Consumers have a need for both novel and familiar music, and they especially prefer familiar music when they are busy working or doing cognitively demanding tasks.Goodman says that the success of services like Pandora and Spotify will continue because they not only play personalized familiar favorites, but they also introduce people to new music with familiar musical elements.

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Music decreases perceived pain for kids in pediatric ER

July 15, 2013 — Newly published findings by medical researchers at the University of Alberta provide more evidence that music decreases children’s perceived sense of pain.Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Lisa Hartling led the research team that involved her colleagues from the Department of Pediatrics, as well as fellow researchers from the University of Manitoba and the United States. Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics today.The team conducted a clinical research trial of 42 children between the ages of 3 and 11 who came to the pediatric emergency department at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and needed IVs. Some of the children listened to music while getting an IV, while others did not. Researchers measured the children’s distress, perceived pain levels and heart rates, as well as satisfaction levels of parents, and satisfaction levels of health-care providers who administered the IVs. The trial took place between January 2009 and March 2010.”We did find a difference in the children’s reported pain — the children in the music group had less pain immediately after the procedure,” says Hartling. “The finding is clinically important and it’s a simple intervention that can make a big difference. Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures would be an inexpensive and easy-to-use intervention in clinical settings.”The research showed that the children who listened to music reported significantly less pain, some demonstrated significantly less distress, and the children’s parents were more satisfied with care.In the music listening group, 76 per cent of health-care providers said the IVs were very easy to administer — a markedly higher number than the non-music group where only 38 per cent of health-care providers said the procedure was very easy. Researchers also noticed that the children who had been born premature experienced more distress overall.Hartling and her team hope to continue their research in this area, to see if music or other distractions can make a big difference for kids undergoing other painful medical procedures. The pain and distress from medical procedures can have “long-lasting negative effects” for children, note the researchers.”There is growing scientific evidence showing that the brain responds to music and different types of music in very specific ways,” said Hartling. “So additional research into how and why music may be a better distraction from pain could help advance this field.”The study noted that previous research has shown that the mood of the music, whether it has lyrics, and whether it is familiar to the listener could have an impact on pain perception as well.This research trial was funded by the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.

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Melody modulates choir members’ heart rate

July 8, 2013 — When people sing in a choir their heart beats are synchronised, so that the pulse of choir members tends to increase and decrease in unison. This has been shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg that examined the health effects for choir members.In the research project “Kroppens Partitur” (The Body’s Musical Score), researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy are studying how music, in purely biological terms, affects our body and our health. The object is to find new forms where music may be used for medical purposes, primarily within rehabilitation and preventive care.In the latest study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the research group is able to show how the musical structure influences the heart rate of choir members.In December 2012, Björn Vickhoff and his research group brought together fifteen 18-year-olds at Hvitfeltska High School in Gothenburg and arranged for them to perform three different choral exercises: monotone humming, singing the well-known Swedish hymn “Härlig är Jorden” (Lovely is the Earth) as well as the chanting of a slow mantra. The heart rhythm of the choir members was registered as they performed in each case.The results from the study show that the music’s melody and structure has a direct link is linked to the cardiac activity of the individual choir member; to sing in unison has a synchronising effect so that the heart rate of the singers tends to increase and decrease at the same time.”Singing regulates activity in the so-called vagus nerve which is involved in our emotional life and our communication with others and which, for example, affects our vocal timbre. Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states,” explains Björn Vickhoff, lead author of the study.Choral singing’s positive effects on health and well-being are testified by many, although it has only been studied scientifically to a lesser extent. The researchers’ hypothesis is that the health effects arise through singing “imposing” a calm and regular breathing pattern which has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability — something that, in its turn, is assumed to have a favourable effect on health.”In the case of controlled breathing, the heart rate or pulse decreases when breathing out during exhalation in order to then increase again when breathing in during inhalation. This is due to breathing out Exhalation activates the vagus nerve that lowers the heart rate which slows down the heart. The medical term for this fluctuation in heart rate the connection between breathing and heart rate is RSA and it is more pronounced with young people in good physical condition and not subject to stress. Our hypothesis is that song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out exhaling occurs on the song phrases and breathing in inhaling between these,” says Björn Vickhoff.”We already know that choral singing synchronises the singers’ muscular movements and neural activities in large parts of the body. …

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Perfect pitch may not be absolute after all

June 11, 2013 — People who think they have perfect pitch may not be as in tune as they think, according to a new University of Chicago study in which people failed to notice a gradual change in pitch while listening to music.When tested afterward, people with perfect, or absolute pitch, thought notes made out of tune at the end of a song were in tune, while notes that were in tune at the beginning sounded out of tune.About one out of 10,000 people has absolute pitch, which means they can accurately identify a note by hearing it. They are frequently able, for instance, to replicate a song on a piano by simply hearing it. Absolute pitch has been “idealized in popular culture as a rare and desirable musical endowment, partly because several well-known composers, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Handel, have been assumed to posses absolute pitch,” the researchers write in “Absolute Pitch May Not Be So Absolute,” in the current issue of Psychological Science.The study showed that exposure to music influences how people identify notes from their sound, rather than having a rare, absolute ability at an early age. The research also demonstrates the malleability of the brain — that abilities thought to be stable late in life can change with even a small amount of experience and learning.One of the researchers, Stephen Hedger, a graduate student in psychology at UChicago, has absolute pitch, as determined by objective tests. Joining him in the study were postdoctoral scholar Shannon Heald and Howard Nusbaum, professor in psychology at UChicago.Hedger and Heald decided to pursue the study after a session in which Heald tricked Hedger by covertly adjusting pitch on an electronic keyboard.”Steve and I have talked about absolute pitch, and I thought it might be more malleable than people have thought,” Heald said. While in the lab, Hedger began to play a tune, and Heald secretly changed the pitch with a wheel at the side of the keyboard.Heald changed the tuning to make the music a third of a note flatter than it was at the beginning of the song. Hedger never noticed the change, which was gradual, and was later surprised to discover the music he was playing was actually out of tune at the end.”I was astounded that I didn’t notice the change,” Hedger said. Working with Nusbaum, an expert on brain plasticity, they devised experiments to see if other people with absolute pitch would make the same mistake as Hedger.The researchers recruited 27 people who were identified as having absolute pitch by standard tests and assigned them to two groups for two experiments. The subjects were tested on identifying notes at the beginning of the experiments, and each was able to correctly identify an in-tune note.One group then listened to Johann Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. …

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Listening to music while driving has very little effect on driving performance, study suggests

June 6, 2013 — Most drivers enjoy listening to the radio or their favourite CD while driving. Many of them switch on the radio without thinking. But is this safe? Experiments carried out by environment and traffic psychologist Ayça Berfu Ünal suggest that it makes very little difference. In fact the effects that were measured turned out to be positive. Music helps drivers to focus, particularly on long, monotonous roads. Ünal will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 10 June 2013.Experienced motorists between 25 and 35 years of age are perfectly capable of focusing on the road while listening to music or the radio, even when driving in busy urban traffic. Ünal makes short shrift of the commonly held idea that motorists who listen to music drive too fast or ignore the traffic regulations. Ünal: ‘I found nothing to support this view in my research. On the contrary, our test subjects enjoyed listening to the music and did their utmost to be responsible drivers. …

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Evolving roles of hospice and palliative care

Nov. 14, 2012 — Many people think hospice and palliative care come at the end of life, and while both often play a key role then, palliative care also can provide pain relief, symptom control, emotional comfort and spiritual support as patients recover from serious illnesses. National Hospice Palliative Care Month is held in November to educate physicians and patients and their families about hospice care, palliative care and their similarities and differences. Donna Kamann, a palliative care nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, explains these growing and evolving medical specialties and how they can help patients and their loved ones.

At Mayo, for example, palliative care teams include physicians, advanced-practice nurses, chaplains, licensed clinical social workers, pharmacists and physical and occupational therapists. Starting with their individual expertise, the members build a care plan that carefully considers each patient’s unique needs. Palliative care can segue into hospice care if the illness becomes terminal.

“Respecting the desires of patients — as well as their families and their caregivers — palliative care seeks to improve quality of life in the face of serious illness,” Kamann says. “Palliative care treats people suffering from serious and chronic illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and many more.”

Palliative care and hospice care can provide:

*Pain management: Most patients and families want every effort be made to relieve pain. It is important for the patient to receive the appropriate medication for his or her condition. Different types of pain require different medications.

*Symptom control: This includes management of the symptoms associated with the illness and side effects of treatment: pain, nausea/vomiting, poor appetite, shortness of breath, loss of energy, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression related to the illness, and delirium, Kamann says.

*Emotional support: It is natural to feel sad, angry, panicked, or helpless when you or someone you love becomes ill. Team members help patients and families develop coping skills and ease anxiety over how illnesses may progress. They also can assist with difficult conversations that patients and families may want to have, but do not know how to start. The simple presence of someone who loves the patient can be extremely soothing and helpful.

*Spiritual care: Spirituality and spiritual life are about religion and anything else through which a person finds meaning, says Michael Brown, a chaplain in spiritual care at Mayo Clinic Health System. “Spirituality is a practice that cultivates the deepest aspects of who we are,” Brown says. He suggests providing an atmosphere that is in harmony with the patient’s wishes. Music therapy, massage therapy, reiki and healing touch are among options available to patients in palliative care.

Palliative care is available at any time during a serious or life-threatening illness, while hospice care is available only during the final months of life — when curative or life-prolonging treatments have been stopped. Hospice care can be provided at home or on an in-patient basis. Roughly 1.6 million people with life-limiting illness receive care from U.S. hospice or palliative care providers, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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