The possible antinociceptive effect of hemispheric-synchronised sounds, classical music and blank tape were investigated in patients undergoing surgery under general anaesthesia. The study was performed on 76 patients, ASA 1 or 2, aged 18-75 years using a double-blind randomised design. Each of the three tapes was allocated to the patients according to a computer-generated random number table. General anaesthesia was standardised and consisted of propofol, nitrous oxide 66%/oxygen 33%, isoflurane and fentanyl. Patients breathed spontaneously through a laryngeal mask and the end-tidal isoflurane concentration was maintained near to its minimum alveolar concentration value of 1.2%. Fentanyl was given intravenously sufficient to keep the intra-operative heart rate and arterial blood pressure within 20% of pre-operative baseline values and the fentanyl requirements were used as a measure of nociception control. Patients to whom hemispheric-synchronised sounds were played under general anaesthesia required significantly less fentanyl compared with patients listening to classical music or blank tape (mean values: 28 microgram, 124 microgram and 126 microg, respectively) (p < 0.001). This difference remained significant when regression analysis was used to control for the effects of age and sex.