Music and the heart.

Research paper by Stefan S Koelsch, Lutz L Jäncke

Indexed on: 12 Sep '15Published on: 12 Sep '15Published in: European heart journal


Music can powerfully evoke and modulate emotions and moods, along with changes in heart activity, blood pressure (BP), and breathing. Although there is great heterogeneity in methods and quality among previous studies on effects of music on the heart, the following findings emerge from the literature: Heart rate (HR) and respiratory rate (RR) are higher in response to exciting music compared with tranquilizing music. During musical frissons (involving shivers and piloerection), both HR and RR increase. Moreover, HR and RR tend to increase in response to music compared with silence, and HR appears to decrease in response to unpleasant music compared with pleasant music. We found no studies that would provide evidence for entrainment of HR to musical beats. Corresponding to the increase in HR, listening to exciting music (compared with tranquilizing music) is associated with a reduction of heart rate variability (HRV), including reductions of both low-frequency and high-frequency power of the HRV. Recent findings also suggest effects of music-evoked emotions on regional activity of the heart, as reflected in electrocardiogram amplitude patterns. In patients with heart disease (similar to other patient groups), music can reduce pain and anxiety, associated with lower HR and lower BP. In general, effects of music on the heart are small, and there is great inhomogeneity among studies with regard to methods, findings, and quality. Therefore, there is urgent need for systematic high-quality research on the effects of music on the heart, and on the beneficial effects of music in clinical settings.