Massachusetts General Hospital surgery resident Claudius Conrad is building upon his prior work with music in the ICU to research the effects it has on surgeons’ learning, speed and accuracy:
From the Boston Globe:
Conrad’s research on music and medicine began when he investigated how music affects patients in the intensive care unit. In a study published in 2007, he tested the effects of music on a group of 10 critically ill patients. Half of them listened through headphones to the slow movements of Mozart piano sonatas for an hour, and half heard no music. Those who heard music needed less sedation, and had reduced stress hormone levels, and lower blood pressure and heart rate.
That work motivated him to turn those same techniques on other parts of medicine.
“What he’s looking at is the subliminal effect that could produce a positive effect on performance. . . . If I’m in some difficult operation, maybe there is some positive effect on my physiology – not even on my conscious mood – that would translate into a better surgical performance,’’ said Dr. Andrew Warshaw, surgeon in chief at Mass. General.
To systematically test the effects of music in the operating room, Conrad created tasks for surgeons to complete on a computer simulator of laparoscopic procedures – surgeries that involve operating through a small incision. He tested the speed and accuracy of eight expert surgeons under different conditions: Surgeons performed the tasks in silence; while listening to Mozart; and accompanied by the chaotic, stressful noise produced by hearing a different stream of music in each ear – one, German folk music; the other, death metal.
There’s more in this Boston Globe article on the effects of death metal on a surgeon’s performance. Dr. Conrad’s earlier work is available through Pubmed and he has an explanation of his work (his research and his piano playing) online at Medscape.