Group Drumming Research

By Janet Planet

The first controlled scientific investigation of its kind to document specific immune system effects of group drumming in normal subjects was published in January 2001 in the prestigious international Journal of Alternative Therapies. The study's principal investigator was Barry Bittman, MD, Neurologist. In the August 2001 Discover Magazine an article entitled "The Genetic Mystery of Music" says this about Bittman's research:

Music can mitigate stress. In one recent study, neurologist Barry Bittman of the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania gathered a group of 10 people and had them beat hand drums for an hour while a music "facilitator" conducted. Afterward, Bittman took blood samples. The drummers, he found, had heightened levels of immune cells called natural killer cells that seek out and destroy both cancer cells and cells infected by viruses. A control group that read in silence experienced no such upsurge.
Bittman believes that group drumming, through it's camaraderie, support, exercise, and music making signals the brain to counter the production of cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Less cortisol has been associated with a heightened immune response and may help the body fight off infection. "I'm not saying it's a cure for cancer," Bittman cautions, "but what I am saying is that we have a very important step in understanding a delightful, and fun way for people to reverse the stress responses in a manner that leads us to positive biological changes."

In effect Bittman and his team of researchers proved that group drumming boosts production of natural killer cells that seek out and destroy cancer and virus cells.... and increases cytokines, interluekin II and gamma interferon proteins essential for cellular defense mechanisms. Though Bittman is careful not to suggest he's found a cure for cancer, he's certainly proved group drumming brings beneficial health effects to participants.

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