Musical training might be good for the heart, suggests asmall study, which shows that it is musical tempo, rather than style,that is the greatest stress buster.
The findings, published aheadof print in Heart, are based on various aspects of breathing andcirculation, in 24 young men and women, taken before and while theylistened to short excerpts of music.
Half of those taking partwere trained musicians, who had been playing instruments for at leastseven years. The remainder had had no musical training.
Eachparticipant listened to short tracks of different types of music inrandom order, for 2 minutes, followed by the same selection of tracksfor 4 minutes each. A 2 minute pause was randomly inserted into each ofthese sequences.
Participants listened to raga (Indian classicalmusic), Beethoven's ninth symphony (slow classical), rap (the Red HotChilli Peppers), Vivaldi (fast classical), techno, and Anton Webern(slow "dodecaphonic music").
Faster music, and more complexrhythms, speeded up breathing and circulation, irrespective of style,with fast classical and techno music having the same impact. But thefaster 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.
Butduring the pauses, all the indicators of physiological arousal fellbelow those registered before the participants started to listen to anyof the tracks.
This effect occurred, irrespective of the musicalstyle or preferences of the listener, but was stronger among themusicians, who are trained to synchronise their breathing with musicalphrases.
Passive listening to music initially induces varyinglevels of arousal, proportional to the tempo, say the authors, whilecalm is induced by slower rhythms or pauses.
They suggest thatthis could therefore be helpful in heart disease and stroke. Otherresearch has shown that music can cut stress, improve athleticperformance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients, andeven boost milk production in cattle.
Reference:Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and respiratory changes induced bydifferent types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importanceof silence Online First DOI: 10.1136/heart.2005.064600
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