Music therapy is widely used to enhance well-being, reduce pain, and distract patients from unpleasant symptoms in the clinical setting. However, the degree to which music modulates pain perception is unknown. The medial pain pathway including the limbic system is associated with emotion, but how music alters pathway activity is unclear. The aim of the study was to investigate pain thresholds and pain-related responses in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and whether they were modulated when subjects listened to their favorite music genre.
First, 30 subjects were examined for left forearm pain threshold using electrical stimulation with Pain Vision PS-2011N. The pain thresholds with and without music were compared. Second, when an 80-μA current from Pain Vision was applied to the left ankle of eight women, the pain-related responses of the ACC with and without music were observed with functional magnetic resonance device (fMRI). The changes in the pain-related activity in both parameters were discussed.
The median pain threshold with favorite music was 38.9 μA, compared to 29.0 μA without, which was significantly different ( p<0.0001). The men’s thresholds were significantly higher than women’s both with music ( p<0.05) and without music ( p<0.01). The pain threshold in women was more strongly affected by music than in men. The fMRI results showed that the pain-related response in the ACC in five of eight subjects was attenuated while they listened to their favorite music. No change was observed in the other three subjects.