Bird songs lend therapeutic powers to hospital patients

Saturday, December 04, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: bird songs, therapy, health news

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(NaturalNews) Children who listen to recordings of bird songs behave more calmly when receiving medical treatment, according to those behind a new project at the Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, England.

Recordings of birdsong, rain and wind -- made by hospital children along with sound recording artist Chris Watson in Springfield Park -- are now being played throughout the children's ward to calm patients during injections, surgery and other stressful procedures. The birds singing include blackbirds, greenfinches, robins and songthrushes.

Watson, who works with famed naturalist David Attenborough, is well known for taping hard-to-reach natural locales such as the insides of glaciers, the undersides of waves and the inside of a zebra carcass as it is being eaten by vultures.

"We have seen tangible benefits for patients in bringing the natural world into hospitals," said Laura Sillers, Artistic Program Director of the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. "We also installed it in the corridors and there have been numerous requests for the Bird Song chorus to be reproduced on CD which patients then play at home. This research will be groundbreaking in demonstrating the role art can play in delivering health benefits."

The researchers hope to discover whether in addition to calming patients during procedures, the recordings can also reduce the need for pain medication and speed healing.

It has long been known, to both science and popular consciousness, that humans find the sound of birdsong both pleasant and soothing. From 1924 to 1942, the newly formed BBC radio service broadcast a highly popular nightly live performance of cellist Beatrice Harrington performing a duet with a nightingale. In 2008, when the digital radio station Oneworld closed down, it was replaced by a station that played only birdsong. The new station proved significantly more popular than the old one.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson attributes humans' love of birdsong to our intrinsic "biophilia," or an inborn need to connect with nature and other living beings.

As Adam Leith Gollne writes in his book The Fruit Hunters, "To experience biophilia is to love a diversity that, as limitless as it is fragile, both haunts us and fills us with hope."

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