Original Report| Volume 10, ISSUE 9, P953-960, September 2009

Both Happy and Sad Melodies Modulate Tonic Human Heat Pain


      The mechanism of music effects on pain perception remains to be elucidated. To determine which component (mood or valence) of music is more important in music-induced hypoalgesia, we compared the effects of 2 melodies with different moods (happy vs sad) but with the same degree of valence (pleasant vs unpleasant) to an affective neutral lecture and a control (baseline) on the objective and subjective responses to tonic heat pain. Our hypothesis was that if mood was the key component, the happy melody would reduce pain, whereas the sad one would exacerbate pain; and if valence is the key component, the 2 melodies would both alleviate pain. Twenty females participated in this study which consisted of 4 conditions (baseline, happy melody, sad melody, and lecture). Pain tolerance time (PTT), pain intensity, and distress dynamics and the characteristics of pain were measured. A newly devised multiple affective rating scale (MARS) was employed to assess the subjective experience of auditory perception. Both happy and sad melodies of equal valence resulted in significant lower pain ratings during the pain test and were in contrast to the mood prediction. These results indicate that the valence of music, rather than the mood it induced, appears to be the most likely mediator of the hypoalgesic effect of the different music.


      This article provides new evidence that the valence of music is more crucial than mood in affective pain modulation. This finding gives impetus for health professionals to manage pain more effectively in patients with proper music.

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