The Effects of Music on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Jaymie Thorne, Jenny Shannon, Crystal Spencer

CU Boulder, Fall 2002

Have you ever noticed that when you are in the car and listening to upbeat music you get excited, or when relaxing, calm music helps you settle down? We thought that different music genres would affect the heart rate and blood pressure of test subjects. We observed individuals experiencing changes in mood and activity level when listening to different types of music. If upbeat music produces a psychological response that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, then we hypothesize that the mental and physical connection in the body will cause upbeat music to increase our heart rate and blood pressure, and calm music will decrease our heart rate and blood pressure.

In order to test this hypothesis, we recorded participants’ heart rate and blood pressure at rest and after one minute of listening to each of four different kinds of music. We ran seven trials with seven different test subjects. We compared resting levels of heart rate and mean arterial pressure to all types of music through T-tests. Our results indicated no significant differences in heart rate or blood pressure when a student is exposed to different mental stimulus because all P-values were greater than 0.05. Once all treatments were completed, the participants were asked to rate the music in order of preference because we thought it would be interesting to see what effect music preference had on HR and BP.

We rejected our original hypothesis because our results were inconsistent with our predictions. We could not prove that music had an effect on Heart Rate or blood pressure. Potential problems with our experiment were limited sample size, only doing the study once, length of treatment and intervals between treatments, lab conditions not consistent with real world conditions, and limited to female participants. Also, we lacked consistent control on eye closure and blood pressure/ heart rate readings. Despite our insignificant findings, there are small trends in our data; 5 out of 7 participants had a drop in mean arterial pressure and heart rate when listening to country and classical music, and Rap/Hip Hop and Techno both increased mean arterial pressure in more than half of the participants.

Pervious research done by Sakamoto for the Journal of Sound and Vibration, found that there was in increase in systolic and diastolic pressures during exposure to steady noise and music with high intensity peaks. This is consistent with our prediction that music with a steady beat, like Techno, would increase a person’s blood pressure. Like Sakamoto, we asked students which type of music they preferred. In his study he found that emotional response changed blood pressure slightly. In order to accurately test whether music can have an effect on heart rate and blood pressure, we would have to test it in many different environments, for a longer period of time, with more control of variables. Based on the study of Sakamoto, and the slight trends in our data we believe that music could have an effect on heart rate and blood pressure under specific conditions.

Reference:

Sakamoto, H., Psycho-circulatory Responses caused by Listening to Music, and Exposure to Fluctuation Noise or Steady Noise, The Journal of Sound and Vibration, 5 September, 2002. V 250(1), p 23-29