[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 28-Sep-2005
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Contact: Emma Dickinson
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BMJ Specialty Journals

Musical training might be good for the heart

Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence Online First DOI: 10.1136/heart.2005.064600

Musical training might be good for the heart, suggests a small study, which shows that it is musical tempo, rather than style, that is the greatest stress buster.

The findings, published ahead of print in Heart, are based on various aspects of breathing and circulation, in 24 young men and women, taken before and while they listened to short excerpts of music.

Half of those taking part were trained musicians, who had been playing instruments for at least seven years. The remainder had had no musical training.

Each participant listened to short tracks of different types of music in random order, for 2 minutes, followed by the same selection of tracks for 4 minutes each. A 2 minute pause was randomly inserted into each of these sequences.

Participants listened to raga (Indian classical music), Beethoven's ninth symphony (slow classical), rap (the Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Vivaldi (fast classical), techno, and Anton Webern (slow "dodecaphonic music").

Faster music, and more complex rhythms, speeded up breathing and circulation, irrespective of style, with fast classical and techno music having the same impact. But the faster the music, the greater was the degree of physiological arousal. Similarly, slower or more meditative music had the opposite effect, with raga music creating the largest fall in heart rate.

But during the pauses, all the indicators of physiological arousal fell below those registered before the participants started to listen to any of the tracks.

This effect occurred, irrespective of the musical style or preferences of the listener, but was stronger among the musicians, who are trained to synchronise their breathing with musical phrases.

Passive listening to music initially induces varying levels of arousal, proportional to the tempo, say the authors, while calm is induced by slower rhythms or pauses.

They suggest that this could therefore be helpful in heart disease and stroke. Other research has shown that music can cut stress, improve athletic performance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients, and even boost milk production in cattle.

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