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Music Shown to Tame Cardiovascular Rhythms

Posted: June 24, 2009

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The study included 24 young adults, half were trained singers and half had no musical background. Each participant listened to various classical and operatic music selections while attached to monitors that tracked heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and dilation in the blood vessels just below the skin. The researchers found that along with the responses to crescendos and decrescendos, certain rhythmic musical phrases seemed to synchronize participants' "inherent cardiovascular rhythms."

The phrases, from two pieces by Verdi, were about 10 seconds long, Bernardi's team notes, which is similar to the standard oscillations in blood pressure. In contrast, a more "intellectual" solo singing piece by Bach had relatively little effect on cardiovascular rhythms.

The researchers point out that the cardiovascular responses were seen even in the absence of emotional responses to the music and altered breathing was not necessary to see cardiovascular effects.

The findings, the researchers say, suggest that music somehow directly affects nervous system control of cardiovascular rhythms. quot;Music induces a continuous, dynamic—and to some extent predictable—change in the cardiovascular system," Bernardi said. "It is not only the emotion that creates the cardiovascular changes, but this study suggests that also the opposite might be possible, that cardiovascular changes may be the substrate for emotions, likely in a bidirectional way."

Source: Circulation: Journal of the American Medical Association, June 30, 2009.