Science behind sound

Sonocytology: the first study showing that cells emit sound

In 2000 Dr James Gimzewski, UCLA, California, published an article on his revolutionary discovery in the field of cellular function[i]. By using the atomic-force microscope, he was able to hear the sounds produced by the cells. The newly emerging science of sonocytology maps the pulsations emitted by the cell’s outer membrane, amplifies them and identifies sounds emitted by each cell, revealing that each cell in our body produces a unique sound and communicates it to the neighbour cells. It was found that yeast cells produce sound ranging from C sharp to D, and that genetically mutated cells produce slightly different sound. When alcohol was sprinkled on the cells killing them, their pitch would go up. Dead cells would produce low rumbling sound (possibly due to random atomic motions). It was also discovered that healthy cells emit slightly different sound to cancerous ones (as cancer seems to originate with the changes in the genetic makeup of the cells), potentially making sonocytology a powerful diagnosing tool in early cancer diagnosis and detection[ii].

[i] Joachim, C.; Gimzewski, J. K.; Aviram, A. (2000). “Electronics using hybrid-molecular and mono-molecular devices” (PDF). Nature 408 (6812): 541–8.doi:10.1038/35046000PMID 11117734. 2,195 citations (Web of Science, October 2014


How does the sound therapy work?

Through the Principle of Resonance

Resonance might be the most important principle behind sound healing. “In physics, resonance is a phenomenon that occurs when a vibrating system or external force drives another system to oscillate with greater amplitude at a specific preferential frequency”[i]. The idea is that each organ, tissue, and even cell (see Sonocytology study above) emits a certain frequency. For example, human brain produces a range of vibrational frequencies. “Beta wave, or beta rhythm, is … the frequency range of human brain activity between 12.5 and 30 Hz (12.5 to 30 transitions or cycles per second)”[ii], while a “delta wave is a high amplitude brain wave with a frequency of oscillation between 0–4 hertz[iii], while “”theta” generally meaning a range of about 4–7 cycles per second (Hz)”[iv]. Also, there is a sound interaction between the cells and the sounds in the environment (like those created during sound therapy). The sonocytology study above showed how cancerous cells emit a different vibration to healthy cells, proposing as a possibility that unhealthy calls would emit different sound frequency from healthy cells. In sound healing, the principle of resonance is used in hope to harmonize the dis-harmonised or unhealthy cells or potentially attune them to their normal vibrational frequency.

Via triggering the Cellular Ion Channels

Another possible explanation of how sound healing can affect the body is by sound’s potential ability to trigger cellular ion channels. “Ion channels are pore-forming membrane proteins whose functions include establishing a resting membrane potential, shaping action potentials and other electrical signals by gating the flow of ions across the cell membrane, controlling the flow of ions across secretory and epithelial cells, and regulating cell volume. Ion channels are present in the membranes of all cells”[v]. Cells are thought to communicate and receive nutrition from other cells through ion channels, so it is possible that in some dysfunctional cells these channels are shut down, resulting in lack of nutrition and communication with other cells. It is possible that sound can help open up the closed down ion channels, improving the cell’s functioning.

Sound and water

It is interesting that sound wave seems to travel four times faster in water rather than air. It can be explained by particles in water being more closely “packed”, allowing them to quickly transmit the vibration energy from one particle to the next[vi]. Considering that some studies showed that adult human’s body’s water content averaged at 65%[vii], it shows the importance of sound work on a human body.







[vii] Guyton, Arthur C. (1976). Textbook of Medical Physiology (5th ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders. p. 424. ISBN 0-7216-4393-0 and Guyton, Arthur C. (1991). Textbook of Medical Physiology (8th ed.). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders. p. 274. ISBN 0-7216-3994-1 in

Scientific and Technological Uses and Implication of the Sound

Photo-acoustics device helping detect melanoma cells

John A. Viator, Ph.D., University of Missouri, is now using a photo-acoustic device to detect melanoma cells in blood[i].

Ultrasound and illness diagnosis

Kathy Nightingale, Duke University, uses ultrasound to detect illnesses. “Nightingale’s research explores [ultra sound’s ability] to “push” on tissue at a microscopic scale. The amount of movement reveals how stiff a tissue is (which, in turn, can indicate whether tissue is healthy or not). It’s the same concept as breast, prostate and lymph node exams, but allows analysis of interior organs too.

“We can use an imaging system to identify regions in organs that are stiffer than surrounding tissue,” Nightingale said. “That would allow doctors to look at regions of pathology (cancer or scarring) rather than having to do a biopsy or cut someone open to look at something.””[ii]

Nerves transmit impulses through sound, not electricity

The Danish scientists at Copenhagen University are refuting a common view that nerves are transmitting electrical impulses. They are arguing that, instead, they are transmitting sound. Read more at

Novasonic: Sound-healing device

In the 1920’s by Professor Erwin Schliephake created Novasonic, one of the first sound-healing machines. “Novasonic Therapy is a lightweight, precision engineered scientific instrument in use by physiotherapists and medical professionals to relieve pain from a wide range of ailments, conditions and injuries. Novasonic is ideal for soothing the aches associated with age, and the pains of sporting injuries.

Novasonic produces sound waves, in the Intrasonic Wave range, specifically designed to penetrate up to 60mm (2¼ inches) into your body, increasing the blood supply to the area being treated, stimulating body tissue and so causing your natural healing processes to begin”. Read more at

Ultrasound’s Healing Potential

In 1938, Raimar Pohlman showed the therapeutic effects of ultrasound in human tissues. He introduced his ultrasound therapy at the Charite, Berlin, as part of his medical practice[iii].


The world’s first Cymatic instruments were created by Dr Peter Guy in the 1960’s. Working together with an engineer, he combined the therapeutic properties of the sound with the magnetic frequencies. “Due to its subtle nature Cymatherapy can be used to treat almost any physical, mental or energetic condition. Common ailments that are treated frequently with Cymatherapy at Natural Holistic Clinics include all types of muscle or joint conditions, chronic pain, stress, skin disorders, chronic fatigue and most types of headache.” Read more at

[i], p.5



Studies into the sound’s potential in improving health and well-being

General Physical and Emotional Well-being

Many scientific studies, including the study in vibroacoustic therapy, show that low- frequency sound waves have potential in helping general well-being. The studies have shown that sound is able to help with stress release[i], tiredness[ii], anxiety[iii], muscle strain[iv], and can help release pain[v]. It has also been shown that it is able to help with emotional and physical relaxation[vi], can help increase awareness of one’s own physical and emotional sensations[vii], can improve concentration[viii], promote sense of peace and clarity[ix] and help with self-reflection[x],  confidence[xi],  creativity[xii]; is able to increase sensations of being hopeful[xiii], powerful[xiv], valuable[xv], optimistic[xvi], cheerful[xvii], energetic[xviii], joyful[xix] and thoughtful[xx]; can also assist in coping with feelings[xxi], help focus[xxii], coping and management skills[xxiii]; and has potential in promoting overall well-being[xxiv]. “Many research participants stated that they would have benefited in having more sessions and more frequently”[xxv].

Parkinson’s Disease

A study showed that the sound treatment resulted into “25% and 24% improvement in reducing tremor and rigidity scores with participants who had Parkinson’s disease”[xxvi].

Sleep Disorders

Sound can potentially help with acute and chronic sleep disorders. See more at Wang CF, Sun YL, Zang HX. Music therapy improves sleep quality in acute and chronic sleep disorders: a meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies. International Journal of Nursing Studies 2013; 51(1): 51-62.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Geretsegger M, Elefant C, Mössler KA, Gold C. Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004381. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004381.pub3.

Other scientific studies have also shown that sound might be able to help with Autism Spectrum Disorder by decreasing stereotypical and self-injurious behaviour[xxvii].

Schizophrenia and Schizophrenia-like Disorders

“There is evidence that music therapy, as an addition to standard care, can help people with schizophrenia improve their global state, negative symptoms, depression, anxiety, and social functioning over the short- to medium-term”. See more at Mössler K, Chen X, Heldal TO, Gold C. Music therapy for people with schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD004025. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004025.pub3.

Acquired Brain Injury

“The results of two studies included in this review suggest that rhythmic auditory stimulation may help improve gait velocity, cadence, stride length and stride symmetry in stroke patients”. Bradt J, Magee WL, Dileo C, Wheeler BL, McGilloway E. Music therapy for acquired brain injury. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD006787. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006787.pub2.

Meditation and an Increase in the Grey-matter Density in the Hippocampus

Harvard study in meditation has shown that the meditators experienced the “increased gray-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection”, as well as decreased grey-matter density in amygdala, “which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress”,

Sound bathing — “which “bathes” you in the sound of music — claims to [potentially be able to] shift the brain from Beta (waking state) to Theta or Delta (meditation) through the vibrations of the instrument”[xxviii], which effectively makes it a type of “noisy” meditations. The only difference is that, unlike with conventional meditation techniques, you don’t actually have to do anything during the gong bath – just lay down and relax while listening to the sounds. The sound will do all the work for you. Hence, sound bathing can also be called “lazy” meditation.

[i] Ahonen H. , Deek P. & Kroeker J.(2012). Low Frequency Sound Treatment Promoting Physical and Emotional Relaxation Qualitative Study.  International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol 17(1) 45-58

[ii] ibid.


[iv] Karkkainen & Mitsui, 2006

[v] Ahonen H. , Deek P. & Kroeker J.(2012). Low Frequency Sound Treatment Promoting Physical and Emotional
Relaxation Qualitative Study.  International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol 17(1) 45-58

[vi] ibid.

[vii] ibid.

[viii] ibid.

[ix] ibid.

[x] ibid.

[xi] ibid.

[xii] ibid.

[xiii] ibid.

[xiv] ibid.

[xv] ibid.

[xvi] ibid.

[xvii] ibid.

[xviii] ibid.

[xix] ibid.

[xx] ibid.

[xxi] ibid.

[xxii] ibid.

[xxiii] ibid.

[xxiv] ibid.

[xxv] ibid.

[xxvi] Haas, et al., (2006) study, text from Ahonen H. , Deek P. & Kroeker J.(2012). Low Frequency Sound Treatment Promoting Physical and Emotional
Relaxation Qualitative Study.  International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. Vol 17(1) 45-58

[xxvii] Lundqvist, Andersson, & Viding, 2009


Healthcare Services in the UK using Music Therapy

NHS and Cancer Research UK Employ Music Therapists

Music therapists are now employed by the NHS and work alongside with healthcare professionals[i]. Oxleas NHS centre now uses music therapy for disabled children and their families[ii].

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK uses music therapy to work with  “symptoms caused by physical illness or mental illness, side effects from cancer and its treatment” and “terminal illness such as cancer”[iii].

Members of Manchester Camerata working with dementia patients

Camerata have been using music therapy to work with dementia patients at Station House Care Home in Crewe,




Music used to clear waters polluted with oil

In 2010 John Hutchison and his associate Nancy Lazaryan used the combination of audio and radio frequencies to effectively clear the oil-polluted waters of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing the native life back, “as manifest by the return of fish, dolphins and even barnacles to a region of Perdido Bay in Lillian, Alabama, USA, where they conducted their first test”. “The area was treated with the frequencies for four hours the first day, and by the next morning, the waters were cleared. They then did four more hours of RF frequency that day, to complete the test”. “…the water that had been murky brown was a clear green”. Read more at


In the eighteenth century Ernst Chladni, the German musician and physician, noticed that it is possible to observe the modes of the vibrations of the plates and membranes by sprinkling the surface with fine dust. “The powder moves due to the vibration and accumulates progressively in points of the surface corresponding to the sound vibration. The points form a pattern of lines, known as nodal lines of the vibration mode.”[i]

Cymatics is a “subset of modal vibrational phenomena”. The term was invented by Hans Jenny. It was observed that after sprinkling the vibrating membrane, plate or diaphragm with a thin coating of particles (dust, thin sand, etc.) “different patterns emerge in the excitatory medium depending on the geometry of the plate and the driving frequency”[ii].

[i] Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni, Oxford Dictionary of Scientists, Oxford Univ. Press, 1999, p. 101 ( link). Accessed 24 August 2015, in

[ii] Jenny, Hans (July 2001). Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena & Vibration (3rd ed.). Macromedia PressISBN 1-888138-07-6 in

NASA recording the sounds from the cosmos

“Some spacecraft have instruments capable of capturing radio emissions…”[i]


or listen and watch:


Still can’t believe it? See it for yourself!

Sound and water


Sound and fire


Cymatics experiment: sound is 3D

Learn More About Sound Therapy and Our Services

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