Can Music Treat Heart Disease?
Certain music may actually be good therapy for the cardiovascular system, concludes research recently presented at the British Cardiology Society Conference in Manchester, England.
The study had its roots began about 20 years ago when two of the researchers were studying the stress of mental arithmetic among a group of young medical students. In that study, they found that the "Ave Maria" prayer in Latin had a 10-second phrase that coincided with Mayer waves, which are arterial pressure oscillations that some experts believe are a measure of sympathetic activity. The prayer was being used in the study as a non-stressful verbal control, reducing the heart rate. The researchers then discovered that when recited in other languages such as Italian, the prayer did not have the same calming effect. In these translations, the rhythms all exceeded 10 seconds.
Over the next 20 years, the researchers discovered that this 10-second rhythm also appeared in other musical compositions, particularly in the works of the composer Verdi.
In the recent study, the team at the University of Oxford wanted to test the effects of different compositions. They presented six different styles of music in a random order to 12 musically untrained medical students and to 12 conservatory musicians. While playing the participants the different styles of music through headphones, the researchers analyzed their cardiovascular response, including their pulse and blood pressure.
The results showed that participants had similar positive responses to both calming music, such as Indian rajas, and exciting music, such as jazz or fast classical music. That suggested that a therapeutic use of music to calm people could be achieved without having to cater the music preference to each individual.
Explained lead researcher Peter Sleight, "Unfortunately, for commercial reasons, the use of music to calm people in therapeutic environments has happened without any critical controlled studies of its effectiveness." He said more research is needed before music therapy can actually be prescribed.