Classical Music Helps Mice Recover from Heart Transplants

Monday, March 26, 2012 - 12:00 AM

doctors prepping for surgery doctors prepping for surgery (interplast/flickr)

The heroine of La Traviata may have died from tuberculosis but Verdi's opera appears to have benefits of its own. Mice with heart transplants survived roughly twice as long if they listened to the opera -- and Mozart concertos -- than pop tunes after an operation, according to Japanese researchers.

Writing in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, a team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Masanori Nimi describe an experiment in which mice were given heart transplants from an unrelated donor that they were therefore expected to reject. For a week after the operation, the mice continuously listened to La Traviata, a selection of Mozart concertos, songs by the New Age artist Enya, or a range of single monotones.

The mice that were exposed to the opera survived the longest -- an average of 26 days -- followed by those who listened to Mozart, surviving 20 days. The group who tuned in to Enya lasted just 11 days and the monotone group only seven days.

The team tested the effects of La Traviata on deaf mice too, and they found that the music had little effect, meaning that hearing the music -- rather than other factors like feeling the vibrations -- accounted for the difference.

Blood samples from the mice revealed that the classical music appeared to slow organ rejection by calming the immune system.

The team would now like to see if the phenomenon could be used to help improve the success of transplants in people. 

The research has its skeptics. John Sloboda, a professor of psychology at the University of Keele, told The New Scientist: "I think it dangerous to dub this an 'opera' or 'Mozart' effect on the basis of exposure to one piece from each genre. The effect might be totally specific to that piece, or even the recording, played at a specific volume, so we know nothing about what characteristics of these pieces might have caused the immunosuppressant response."

If this provides more evidence that classical music has a health-inducing impact on the body, there's been no indication that Dick Cheney's doctors are prescribing a regimen of Verdi just yet.


More in:

Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha,l NJ from Richard EWagner Music Drama INstitute, Boonton, NJ

Even back in the days of Shakespeare, 1564 to 1616, S, i will paraphrase, spoke of music being able to soothe the savage beast. Cpmposers Monteverde, Johann Senbastian Bach and his sons, Haydn, Mozart, Johann Strauss Sr. and his sons, Berlioz, Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, Schonberg, and Berg, ALL have advanced the structure and approaches in their music, how it affected one's outlook on life and general optimism and consequent good attitudes and good health. When at Juilliard I studied facsimilies of the major composers manuscripts of their masterpieces in the Literature and Materials courses. Just as we at Juilliard dissected and analyzed the body of work, the oeuvre, of these composers, we learned methodologies which we could utilize to make our own original conceptions, so too, the composers learned from their predecessors from published works or works heard in performance. We all can learn from others. As an opera composer, my "Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare," my own perceptions of character development, interactiveness between the personalities, and the era and mores of that era in time all directly immensely define the tapestry of the orchestration and the denouement. I studied with leading performers and teachers composing, conducting, singing and acting techniques at Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music and with Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Frieda Hempel, Margarete Matzenauer, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell, Enrico Rosati, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meissner, Philip Burton, Fausto Cleva and Laszlo Halasz and many others. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor and the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. At my website,, one may download free 37 complete selections from the over one hundred I have sung in four three hour long solo concerts in the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium, of Carnegie Hall. They are all LIVE performances.

Apr. 02 2012 10:19 AM
Mat Dirjish from New York, NY

The healing properties of good music, classical being one form, have been known for some time and well documented. If you remember some studies from the late 1960's, early 1970's, classical music may be effctive in plant reproduction and over all well being. One nod to healthy vibes coming from music, I underwent some surgery at a major NY cancer hospital in 2009. They play music during surgery at this hospital and as I went under I heard AC/DC's Highway to Hell. At that point, not only did I know all would go well, but I knew I'd be around to talk about it. Music heals, listen well!

Mar. 28 2012 12:09 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About WQXR Blog

Read WQXR's coverage of classical music news, trends, commentary and more here at the WQXR Blog.