Music structure determines heart rate variability of singers
Journal article, 2013

Choir singing is known to promote wellbeing. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA. The study comprises a group of healthy 18 year olds of mixed gender. The subjects are asked to; (1) hum a single tone and breathe whenever they need to; (2) sing a hymn with free, unguided breathing; and (3) sing a slow mantra and breathe solely between phrases. Heart rate (HR) is measured continuously during the study. The study design makes it possible to compare above three levels of song structure. In a separate case study, we examine five individuals performing singing tasks (1–3). We collect data with more advanced equipment, simultaneously recording HR, respiration, skin conductance and finger temperature. We show how song structure, respiration and HR are connected. Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously. Implications concerning the effect on wellbeing and health are discussed as well as the question how this inner entrainment may affect perception and behavior.

choral singing

respiratory sinus arrhythmia

frequency analysis

heart rate variability

autonomic nervous system

Author

Björn Vickhoff

University of Gothenburg

Helge Malmgren

University of Gothenburg

Rickard Åström

Gunnar Nyberg

Sahlgrenska University Hospital

Seth-Reino Ekström

Mathias Engwall

University of Gothenburg

Johan Snygg

Sahlgrenska University Hospital

Michael Nilsson

University of Gothenburg

Rebecka Jörnsten

University of Gothenburg

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Statistics

Frontiers in Psychology

1664-1078 (ISSN)

Vol. 4 JUL Art. no. 334- Article 334

Subject Categories

Neurosciences

Physiology

Musicology

DOI

10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00334

More information

Latest update

4/17/2018