Evidence suggesting that the emotion produced by listening to music is neurologically similar to any other emotions led researchers to investigate music as a mood-management tool. Results from subsequent studies support that hypothesis by showing that implementing a music listening protocol to various subjects (e.g., athletes, depressed women, stroke patients) yielded significant improvements in mood states (i.e., the word significant here is a statistical term meaning that it is unlikely that the results were due to chance).

The principle governing that body of research is called the ISO principle, and it is defined as “the principle of matching music with an equal behavior or mood of an individual”. More specifically it suggests using music to reflect a person’s current mood and then gradually shifting the musical elements or tempo to elicit an intended mood (i.e., slowly switching from a sad song to a more upbeat rhythm). Aside from mood management, the ISO principle has been used to improve concentration, relaxation, and even to help with pain management.

Dr Ira Altshuler developed and implemented the ISO principle on patients requiring psychiatric care. He followed a system called “level attacks” which followed a specific order of musical elements designed to manipulate moods. These elements were selected for their ability to arouse, hold and redirect attention, modify moods and elicit imagery. They include a theme song to induce a mood change, rhythm, melody, harmony, mood, and pictorial association (i.e., familiar music that elicit a variety of memories).

The current paper presents results supporting the effectiveness of the ISO principle as a method of mood management by describing a case study of a depressed patient with an eating disorder NOA (i.e., an eating disorder that shares many but not all of the characteristics of bulimia and anorexia) who used music to help her cope with her depression. In addition to its benefits on moods, the use of this method as a tool for mood modulation provides the patient with the means to empower themselves by becoming an active participant in their own care.


Heiderscheit, A., & Madson, A.T. (2015). Use of the Iso Principle as a Central Method in Mood Management: A Music Psychotherapy Clinical Case Study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 33, 45-52.

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