“Our psychic life has rhythm: it is a series of transitions and resting-places, of ‘flights and perchings.’ We rest when we remember the name we have been searching for; and we are off again when we hear a noise that might be the baby waking from her nap.” – William James.
Rhythm must be important; it exists in too many facets not to be. It’s hard to think of much that is independent of some form of rhythm: the rising and falling of the sun, our own circadian rhythms, the daily, habitual routines we develop, even the way we walk. Rhythm’s pervasive inclusion must serve a purpose. Some dutiful observation and report, along with recent advances in technology, has born significant insights into the importance of rhythm. One such arena where this has become evident is psychoneuroimmunology, or the study of the interaction between emotional states, like stress, with nervous and immune system functioning (Merriam-Webster’s 2013).
Dr. Barry Bittman is at the forefront of researching the intersection of rhythm and psychoneuroimmunology. Bittman et al. (2001) examined psychoneuroimmunological measures in normal individuals recruited for a group drumming exercise at a community health center. They found immuno-enhancing effects that are contrary to classic stress response. These effects may create a buffer to protect an individual from the harmful physiological processes activated by the classic stress response that can contribute to acute and chronic illness like heart disease and various cancers. Bittman and his colleagues continue their work and have expanded their research to multiple populations including older adults and health care workers (Bittman et al., 2005; Koyama et al., 2009). Research has also focused on how drumming may assuage some of the ill effects stress can have on our genes (which also impacts our immune functioning) (Bittman et al., 2005).
This only touches the tip of the iceberg regarding the potential healing benefits of rhythm and drumming. For individuals interested in pursuing more research regarding this topic or exploring these potential benefits, please feel free to contact Owen with your question(s) at (424) 442-0813.

Owen Petersen, Psy.D.
Psychological Assistant (PSB 37859) and Post-doctoral Intern at The Saturday Center for Psychotherapy, supervised by Bruce R. Brodie, Ph.D. (PSY 6574)