Research: BERNARDI and co-authors,

Listed in Issue 138


BERNARDI and co-authors, Department of Internal Medicine, IRCCS S Matteo, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy,, have studied physiological changes induced by different types of music, and emphasize the importance of silence.


The aim of this study was to assess the potential clinical use, particularly in modulating stress, of changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems induced by music, specifically tempo, rhythm, melodic structure, pause, individual preference, habituation, order effect of presentation, and previous musical training.


Cardiovascular and respiratory variables were measured while patients listened to music. 12 practising musicians and 12 age matched controls were presented, after a five minute baseline, with six different music styles (first for a two minute, then for a four minute track) in random order, with a randomly inserted two minute pause. Breathing rate, ventilation, carbon dioxide, blood pressure, mid-cerebral artery flow velocity, and baroreflex were the outcomes measures.


Ventilation, blood pressure, and heart rate increased and mid-cerebral artery flow velocity and baroreflex decreased with faster tempi and simpler rhythmic structures compared with baseline. No habituation effect was seen. The pause reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and minute ventilation, even below baseline. An order effect independent of style was evident for mid-cerebral artery flow velocity, indicating a progressive reduction with exposure to music, independent of style. Musicians had greater respiratory sensitivity to the music tempo than did non-musicians.


Music induces an arousal effect, predominantly related to the tempo. Slow or meditative music can induce a relaxing effect; relaxation is particularly evident during a pause. Music, especially in trained subjects, may first concentrate attention during faster rhythms, then induce relaxation during pauses or slower rhythms.


Bernardi L, Porta C, Sleight P. Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence. Heart 92 (4): 445-452, Apr 2006.

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