Effect of Music on heart rate

This topic submitted by Priyanka Chandrasekaran,Katie Bosworth, Matthew WIlliams, Chris Feran, Alex ( chandrpb@miamioh.edu ) on 10/21/05. [Section: McCollum]
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Natural Systems 1 Syllabus---Western Program---Miami University

Effect of Music on Heart Rate
Submitted by Priyanka Chandrasekaran,Katie Bosworth, Matthew WIlliams, Chris Feran and Alex

This project studies the heart rate variability and psychological responses due to exposure to various genres of music. Subjects to be used are 20 undergraduate students at Miami University between the ages of 18 and 25. The pieces of music to be used are “Symphony Number 5: III” by Dmitri Shostakovich, “Sprits Drifting” by Brian Eno, “Blackest Eyes,” by Porcupine Tree, “War Machine,” by Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus, and “Imaginary Places,” by Bus Driver. The five songs will be tested on each subject for duration of three minutes with an interval of two minutes between each kind of music. The heart rate will be brought to the resting rate before experimenting with the next genre of music. We speculate that slow music will lower the heart rate and bring the psychological sense in a state of low tension and stress while songs with fast beats and high pitches increased the rate of the heartbeat. The positive effect of slow music will be an apparent tool to reduce anxiety and stress in patients after a surgery and can be used as an adjuvant in their treatment.


An alternative method of healing exists, known as holistic medicine, that may be more effective than the "over the counter drugs" commonly used in society today. Holistic--from the Greek root holos, meaning whole—medicine, the practice of making the body whole, “…is part of a worldview, which promises to achieve societal change through respect for the individual and for the contribution of diversity to an integrative model of healing. It includes, but is not limited to, nutrition, herbal medicine, spinal manipulation and body work medicine, "energy medicine," spiritual attunement, relaxation training and stress management, biofeedback and acupuncture” (AHMA). In holistic medicine, physical, mental, and spiritual ailments are treated.

Relaxation training and stress management exist as fundamental treatments in holistic medicine because they involve directly all three types of ailments. Traditionally, relaxation and stress has been measured by fluctuations in heart rate. The heart is a vital organ in the human body. Though only the size of the fist, it pumps blood to the rest of the body by rhythmic expansion and relaxation. The frequency of this cardiac cycle is measured through heart rate. The heart rate is the number of contractions (beats) of the heart in a minute (Bianco 1-6).

Previous experiments involving heart rate have used music as an alternative technique to induce relaxation or stress. Earlier studies made show that music may influence heart rate and respiration, however, all of these experiments have used small numbers of subjects. In the early 1900’s Shoen and Soibelman showed that there was a correlation between music and heart rate by the increase in the rate while listening to different types of music (Schoen 1-449, Soibelman 103-108). An experiment by Ellis and Brighouse was completed on The Effect of Music on Respiration and Heart Rate. They tested how different genres of music effected 36 college students’ respiration and heart rate. Each genre of music caused slight increases in both respiration and heart rates among the students. Therefore, concluding that music is an effective therapeutic agent if the desired effect is an increase in either respiration or heart rate (Ellis and Brighouse 39-47).

Although Ellis and Brighouse did not find music decreasing heart rate, there experiment did show a correlation between music and heart rate. This correlation has a wide scope in the medical field. By implementing a natural method of relaxation rather than taking pills to soothe the mind, humans can create a holistic body. The natural system of medication evolves from India in the form of Ayurveda and Yunani where plant extracts such as Neem and Tulasi are used to cure various sicknesses. Treatment has evolved from natural methods to medication in the form of chemical pills. However, there is still an underlying natural method of cure amidst the emerging trend of medical treatment. Finding how music effects heart rate may help to relieve stress and put the mind and body in a state of calm. Music has an arousal effect, which is related to its frequency and tempo. Logically, slow or meditative music may induce a relaxing effect and cause relaxation. In measuring how different genres of music affect the heart rate of human beings, we intend to discover if there is a type of music that will lower the heart rate. We propose that different types of music will increase or decrease the heart rate.

Specific Research Design

We will be measuring the heart rates of each subject to determine the effect of music on cardiovascular activity. In order to do this, we first must measure, using a heart rate monitor, the resting heart rate of the subject, as the control. As a heart rate can fluctuate and a heart-rate monitor tracks the contractions of the heart in real-time and calculates an estimated heartbeats per minute, we will take three (3) measurements and calculate an average. This resulting average is the heart rate that the subject’s heart rate must reach before exposure to each genre of music.

Prior to experimentation, the subjects will be asked to rank preferentially the five genres of music to be used in the experiment: classical, ambient, rock, metal, and rap. The subject will be asked to specify their physical activity. As a higher level of physical fitness will result in a lower fluctuation of heart rate and a faster recovery time, it might prove statistically beneficial to be aware of this information for each subject. The subject will sign up for an appointment to be tested. Once they arrive for their scheduled time, only the tester(s) and the subject will be in the room, so as to eliminate any distractions. The subject will be lying down with a heart rate monitor attached and the tester will hold the receiver to record all of his/her findings (see attached data/consent form). Each piece of music will be administered to the subject through headphones via an Apple iPod®.

The third movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony Number 5 will be used for classical music. A 20th century modern composer, his works tend to emulate the style of his predecessors and create a phonic often indistinguishable and generic—this will eliminate any particular attachment that a subject might possess with a certain composer’s style. “Spirits Drifting” by Brian Eno from his album Another Green World (1979) will be used for ambience. Eno is recognised as the first creator of ambient electronica, an avant-garde genre of music focused on atmospheric horizontal composition rather than rigid structure or focus on harmony, resulting in more naturally flowing stream-of-consciousness works. They will not know the songs that they will hear beforehand, and the songs chosen are intended to be obscure so that prior experience with the song will not introduce lurking variables. For rock, we will be using “Blackest Eyes” by Porcupine Tree, from their album In Absentia (2001). A British progressive rock song, “Blackest Eyes” combines many elements found in modern rock music, including pristine production, use of syncopation and odd-time metres, subtle complex harmonies, technicality, and transitions between acoustic and electric sections. For metal we will be using “War Machine” by Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus, an underground “grindcore” avant-garde metal band. Using visceral vocals, aggressive drumming and rhythmic foundation, and deliberate use of atonality and tempo changes, they exemplify most subsets of the metal genre. For rap, we will be exposing the subjects to “Imaginary Places” by Bus Driver, from Temporary Forever (2003). His unorthodox style of rapping typically is shunned by mainstream media for use of his combined elements of vocal jazz, straight rap, and spoken word.

Before being exposed to the experimental genres of music, the subjects will hear a jazz song, “It Might As Well Be Spring,” by Brad Mehldau from the album Introducing Brad Meldau. This song will have no data associated with it; rather, it will serve as a ‘dummy’ to eliminate any initial shock the subjects might encounter when first initiating the experiment.

Each song will begin once the subject achieves resting heart rate, and will commence to play for three (3) minutes. The order of exposure will be classical, ambient, rock, metal, and rap, preceding all of which will be the jazz ‘dummy’ song. At intervals of fifty (50) seconds, the reading of the heart rate monitor, which the subject will be wearing, will be recorded, with a maximum total of three (3) readings. These readings will be averaged and analyzed statistically after data collection is complete.

Once all of the data is allocated, we will use significance tests to determine whether or not any of the genres of music had a statistically significant effect (a = 0.05) on the heart rate of the subject, and furthermore, if their music preferences impacted their cardiovascular reactions to the exposure of each genre of music.
The null hypothesis states that the heart rate of a subject for each genre equals the resting heart rate. Thus, if the data is statistically significant, it would suggest that a genre of music on a level greater than random chance, affects the heart rate of a subject. A second statistical method, drawn from the preferences of each subject will analyze the variability of heart rate among the different genres and determine if this could be predicted accurately knowing only a subject’s music preferences.

• American Holistic Medical Association. Frequently Asked Questions about Holistic Medicine. (2005). http://www.holisticmedicine.org/public/pub_faq.shtml

• Bianco M D. How Your Heart Works. P. 1-6. http://health.howstuffworks.com/heart.htm

• Schullian D M, Schoen M. Music and Medicine (1948). P. 1-499

• Soibelman D. Thereputic and Industrial Use of Music. (1940). P. 103-108


• "High school healthy hearts in the zone" A heart rate monitoring program for lifelong fitness. Authors: Deve Swaim and Sally Edwards
• "Handbook of Blood Pressure Measurement"
Author: L.A. Geddes, ME, PhD
• "The Beat-by-Beat Investigation of Cardiovascualr Function" Measurement, Analysis, and Applications
Authors: R.I. Kitney and O. Rompelman
• "The effects of contemporary rock and roll music on duration, VOb2s, blood pressure, heart rate and perceived exertion in females aged 18-31 years"
Author: Karen L. Smith
• Heart rate variability with repetitive exposure to music.
Authors: Iwanaga, Makoto1 miwanag@hiroshima-u.ac.jp
Kobayashi, Asami2 Kawasaki, Chie2

Comments: This is the closest article that we were able to read that relates to our project work for this semester. We have always thought that music played a vital role in calming in the soul and wanted to apply this concept into the medical field. Skimming through this article has given a strong support to our hypothesis. The method followed to show a standing proof of the idea is very much the same encompassed in our team project; which is to test music of five kinds- classical, rap, rock, slow tunes and instrumentals with people of my class and study the results to arrive with a good conclusion and perhaps a new finding!

• Sedative music reduces anxiety and pain during chair rest after open-heart surgery.
Authors: Voss, Jo A. j Good, Marion1Yates, Bernice2Baun, Mara M.3Thompson, Austin4 Hertzog, Melody
Comments: This article was a standing evidence that music has some role to play in speedy recovery. So what is the link between music and heart rate?? That is essentially what we will be dealing about in my project.


Author: Crust, Lee

Comments: This article was a little contradiction to my hypothesis that music effects heart beat. But is this the case only in case of vigorous exercising that the little fluctuations caused by music is overlapped by the high stress caused by running? This is something my team should look into during the course of the project.

• Music as a Therapeutic Intervention for Anxiety in Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy.
Authors: Smith, Maureen Casey, Linda Johnson, Darlene Gwede, Clement Riggin, Ona Z.

Comments: This is an interesting article to explore that music has a therapeutic effect with patients of high levels of anxiety and stress. This is vital in our endeavor to link music with the recovery process of patients and what kinds of music parameters like frequency and amplitude actually have a better response to healing.

• The effects on patient well-being of music listening as a nursing intervention: a review of the literature.
Authors: Biley, Francis ,C.Biley, Francis C.

Comments: The floating idea in our mind if music has any effect on the heart seems to be on the positive note with `articles dealing about this issue. If music affects a person physiologically, does it have any role on the physical being? Is the effect of music a direct notation to the brain cells or does it affect the heart in someway too? Questions keep running in our minds and it will not be long before we have answers for them.
• Finding Your Target Heart Rate.
World Almanac & Book of Facts; 2003, p89, 1/3p http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=8847688
Comments: This is a comprehensive book that we found to gain hands on experience with measuring heart beat rate and to interpret the same. Since it is the first time we have taken a project in a medical field, it is as much important to have knowledge on how to handle things as it is to have innovative ideas.

• Spirituality and Healing Sociology

The 'Toronto Blessing': A Holistic Model of Healing

Margaret M. Poloma; Lynette F. Hoelter
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 37, No. 2. (Jun., 1998), pp. 257-272.

Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021- 8294%28199806%2937%3A2%3C257%3AT%27BAHM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-T

National and regional surveys that have included items on healing suggest that a significant minority of Americans claim to have experienced a divine or miraculous healing. Many of them are involved in a Pentecostal or charismatic (P/c) approach to Christianity, a recent offspring of which is the 'Toronto Blessing,' a modern revival having its origins at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. P/c Christians promote a worldview in which the power of God freely moves through and among believers and in which healing is regarded as "supernaturally natural." Using a model implicit in McGuire's qualitative research on P/c healing as a framework for multivariate analysis, the effects of ritual participation, physical manifestations, and emotional responses on four types of healing are explored in a sample of 918 Toronto pilgrims.

• Effects of Music on Respiration- and Heart-Rate

Douglas S. Ellis; Gilbert Brighouse

The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 65, No. 1. (Jan., 1952), pp. 39-47.

Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9556%28195201%2965%3A1%3C39%3AEOMORA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2

• Affective and physiological responses to environmental noises and music.
Authors:Gomez,Patrick1Danuser, Brigitta

• Effects of Medical Resonance Therapy Music on Patients with Psoriasis and Neurodermatitis--A Pilot Study.
Authors: Lazaroff,lyaShimshoni, Raphael

• Relationship between heart rate and preference for tempo of music.
Authors: Iwanaga, Makoto

• Heart Rate Indication Using Musical Data.
Authors:Yokoyama,KiyokoUshida,JunchirohSugiura,YasueMizuno,MikakoMizuno,YasufumiTakata, Kazuyuki

Comments: This site deals with the basics of the working of the heart. It is important to know how the heart, though only the size of the fist, is the most important life retaining organ of the body. This site was comprehensive about the working of the heart, its structure and interesting information about the heart.


The effect of trophotropic (relaxing) music on heart rate and heart rate variability has been investigated in 23 healthy young individuals by means of 24-hour Holter-ECG. Relaxing music (Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart) resulted in significant reduction of heart rate and also significant reduction of heart rate variability. The significance of these results for the use of music in coronary heart disease is discussed.

BACKGROUND: Exposure to noise in a critical care unit may trigger a response by the sympathetic nervous system, thereby increasing cardiovascular work in patients recovering from cardiac surgery. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of a music intervention given twice on the first postoperative day on noise annoyance, heart rate, and arterial blood pressure in subjects with high (n = 22) and low (n = 18) sensitivity to noise. METHODS: A prospective, quasi-experimental, repeated-measures design was used. Based on results of power analysis, the sample size was 40. Subjects were recruited preoperatively, and their sensitivity to noise was assessed. On the first postoperative day, repeated-measures data were collected on levels of noise annoyance and physiological variables during 15 minutes of baseline and 15 minutes of music intervention on two occasions. Subjects completed a follow-up questionnaire regarding their perceptions of the noise in the critical care unit and the music intervention. RESULTS: Repeated-measures analysis of variance showed that subjects had lower levels of noise annoyance during music intervention than at baseline. Heart rate and systolic blood pressure decreased during the music intervention compared with baseline. Diastolic blood pressure decreased during the music intervention from baseline during time 2, but not time 1. Subjects with high baseline scores of noise sensitivity preoperatively had higher baseline levels of noise annoyance in the critical care unit the first postoperative day. Subjects rated the music intervention as highly enjoyable regardless of their baseline noise sensitivity or noise annoyance. CONCLUSION: Results of this study support the idea that noise annoyance is a highly individual phenomenon, influenced by a transaction of personal and environmental factors. Use of a music intervention with cardiac surgery patients during the first postoperative day decreased noise annoyance, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure, regardless of the subject's noise sensitivity.


Music is widely used to enhance well-being, reduce stress, and distract patients from unpleasant symptoms. Although there are wide variations in individual preferences, music appears to exert direct physiologic effects through the autonomic nervous system. It also has indirect effects by modifying caregiver behavior. Music effectively reduces anxiety and improves mood for medical and surgical patients, for patients in intensive care units and patients undergoing procedures, and for children as well as adults. Music is a low-cost intervention that often reduces surgical, procedural, acute, and chronic pain. Music also improves the quality of life for patients receiving palliative care, enhancing a sense of comfort and relaxation. Providing music to caregivers may be a cost-effective and enjoyable strategy to improve empathy, compassion, and relationship-centered care while not increasing errors or interfering with technical aspects of care.

Results of physiological responses to music are inconclusive considering results of several studies, probably due to the insufficient control of the musical stimuli. The present study aimed to examine the effects of music type and preference on subjective and physiological responses using controlled stimuli by subjects' evaluations for music activity and preference. Subjects were 47 undergraduate students selected from a pool of 145 undergraduates. Results of evaluations of music activity and music preference for musical stimuli in preliminary research determined participation in the study. The music used in this study included the 4th movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 as an excitative piece and the 3rd movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 as a sedative one. The excitative music aroused feelings of vigor and tension more than did the sedative one, while sedative music eased tension. Favorite music, regardless of music type, lowered subjective tension. Physiological responses (heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure) were greater during excitative music than during sedative music. Music preference did not, however, affect physiological responses. These results indicate that the dominant factor affecting emotional response was music type but not preference.

Data Sheet
This data sheet will be held out to all the subjects whose heart rate we will be measuring.

Student Response

Name: _____________________________
Age: _________ Sex: F M
Favorite Types of Music:
Rate your favorite types of music from the given list, one being the highest and 5 being the lowest.

Classical _______
Ambience _______
Rock _______
Metal _______
Rap _______
Specify your physical activity: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
We will be taking pictures throughout the testing process. Please sign below if you give us permission to use these in the future.

------------------------------------ For experimenter use only ----------------------------------
Heart Rate: Blood Pressure: _________
Resting: ____/____/____ Average: ______
Classical: ____/____/____ Average: ______
Ambience: ____/____/____ Average: ______
Rock: ____/____/____ Average: ______
Metal: ____/____/____ Average: ______
Rap: ____/____/____ Average: ______

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