Death Metal In The Operating Room? Many surgeons listen to music in the operating room; surveys tell us as much, and so do surgeons. But the practice hasn't been subjected to rigorous study, until now. Dr. Claudius Conrad is a German-born, Boston-based surgeon who also trained as a concert pianist and holds a Ph.D. in music philosophy. Conrad has performed scholarly research on the effect music in the operating room has on the work of surgeons.
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Death Metal In The Operating Room?

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Death Metal In The Operating Room?

Death Metal In The Operating Room?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Many surgeons listen to music in the operating room. Surveys tell us as much, and so do surgeons. That's just one intersection of music and healing and it's one that's received little, if any, rigorous study until now. Dr. Claudius Conrad is a German-born surgeon in Boston who is also trained as a concert pianist and has a Ph.D. in music philosophy. Dr. Conrad has done scholarly research on what effect music in the operating room has on the work of the surgeon. And he joins us today from Boston. Welcome to the program.

CLAUDIUS CONRAD: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: One study that you did compares the effects of different kinds of music. We're going to be hearing about different kinds of music, so let's hear samples of both kinds. First, this is the recording of you playing the piano, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO)

SIEGEL: What are we hearing?

CONRAD: There's slow movement from Mozart's Piano Sonatas in D major (unintelligible) 526.

SIEGEL: And now we are going to hear an example of something - it's a word that I was unfamiliar with, of music that you call dichotic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: What are we listening to there?

CONRAD: We're listening to experimental music. And one of our interests was to study the affects of auditory stress on surgical performance, and especially on individual components of performance. Is it speed or is it accuracy influenced by auditory stress? And the results were surprise.

SIEGEL: So, in that particular piece of dichotic music, in one we're hearing two different things in two different channels, those of you listening in stereo can probably hear this. But in one channel we are hearing this...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Heavy metal music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONRAD: That's right, death metal music to be more precise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: And in the other channel we are hearing this...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken)

SIEGEL: Sounds like German folk music.

CONRAD: It is indeed, and research has shown that indeed vocal music seems to be more distracting under certain circumstances than instrumental music. And for us it was an experimental tool to test, in a standardized fashion, auditory stress.

SIEGEL: Yeah, the auditory stress - you say this is done with a simulator, you're not actually having patients operated on while playing that music...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: ...which I think violates the U.S. Army field manual for interrogation, the music you're playing.

CONRAD: Yeah, that wouldn't (unintelligible). No, we had a very well- designed simulator that tested for minimal invasive surgery, laparoscopic surgery. And, of course, with those virtual reality simulators, time of completion of a task can be very accurately measured.

SIEGEL: And the finding that people who had to listen to this dichotic music still completed the task successfully but it took them more time.

CONRAD: Yes, and those were very senior expert surgeons. So, now we also looked at people who are early in their career, they are novices of surgery. How does stress influence their performance, which is a very realistic situation? A young surgeon operates in the operating room and the floor calls in, or there's a conversation in the background, there's noise introduced by machines we use in the operating room. And interestingly with them, the influence by this dichotic music varied a great deal. And this is data that will come out soon.

SIEGEL: Dr. Conrad, thank you very much for talking with us.

CONRAD: Thank you.

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