Rafael Ramirez-Melendez, Dr, Universitat Pompeu Fabra & Núria Escudé

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Music is known to have the power to induce strong emotions. The present study assessed, based on Electroencephalography (EEG) data, the emotional response of terminally ill cancer patients to a music therapy intervention in a randomized controlled trial. A sample of 40 participants was randomly assigned to either an experimental group (EG, N=20) who participated in a session of music therapy (MT), or a control group (CG, N=20) who was provided with company. Instantaneous emotional indicators in the form of a coordinate in the arousal-valence plane were extracted from the participants’ EEG data. The emotional indicators were analyzed in order to quantify (1) the overall emotional effect of MT on the patients compared to controls, and (2) the relative effect of the different MT techniques applied during each session. During each MT session, five conditions were considered: I (initial patient’s state before MT starts), C1 (passive listening), C2 (active listening), R (relaxation), and F (final patient’s state). EEG data analysis showed a significant increase in valence (p = 0.0004) and arousal (p = 0.003) between I and F in the EG. No significant changes were found in the CG. This results can be interpreted as a positive emotional effect of MT in advanced cancer patients. In addition, according to pre- and post-intervention questionnaire responses, participants in the EG also showed a significant decrease in tiredness, anxiety and breathing difficulties, as well as an increase in levels of well-being. No equivalent changes were observed in the CG.

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