Music influences people's heart rates, and one piece of music will affect individuals' hearts differently, a new, small study shows.
The findings could lead to novel, drug-free treatments for such conditions as high blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders, or to help people relax or stay alert, the researchers said.
Previous studies that examined physical responses to music measured changes in heart rate after participants listened to recordings simply categorised as sad, happy, calm or violent.
This new study of three patients with mild heart failure requiring a pacemaker took a more targeted approach.
During a live, classical piano concert, researchers used the patients' pacemaker leads to measure the electrical activity of their hearts during significant changes in tempo, volume or rhythm.
"We used precise methods to record the heart's response to music and found that what is calming for one person can be arousing for another," said Elaine Chew, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris.
"Even though two people might have statistically significant changes across the same musical transition, their responses could go in opposite directions. So for one person, the musical transition is relaxing, while for another it is arousing or stress-inducing," Chew said.
For example, someone who doesn't expect a transition from soft to loud music could find it stressful, while another person might find it relaxing.
The small study was presented recently at the European Society of Cardiology virtual meeting. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"By understanding how an individual's heart reacts to musical changes, we plan to design tailored music interventions to elicit the desired response," Chew said in a society news release.
Pier Lambiase, a professor of cardiology at University College London in the UK, was the study's medical leader.
He said tailored interventions could be used to reduce blood pressure or lower the risk of heart rhythm disorders without the side effects of medication.
The researchers are now conducting tests with eight patients to further confirm their findings.
Image credit: Spencer Imbrock, Unsplash