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What is the effect of listening to music on walking?

What is the effect of listening to music on walking?


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How does music affect walking speed and attitude? What will be the effects of different pitch and tempo of music on a person's walking behavior?


Research suggests that endurance is improved when movements are synchronized with a musical beat. [1] This research also supports the idea that music has 'motivational' qualities that may enhance performance. One study measured the pace and attitudes of participants running on a treadmill. The control conditions included: 1) no music ('acoustic stimuli'), 2) a metronome condition (a sequence of beeps matching the tempo of the participant, but nothing else), and 3) synchronous motivational music matched to participants' running tempo. From the abstract:

The beat of the stimuli -which was most salient during the metronome condition- helped runners to maintain a consistent pace by coupling cadence to the prescribed tempo. Thus, acoustic stimuli may have enhanced running performance because runners worked harder as a result of motivational aspects (most pronounced with motivational music) and more efficiently as a result of auditory-motor synchronization (most notable with metronome beeps). These findings imply that running to motivational music with a very prominent and consistent beat matched to the runner's cadence will likely yield optimal effects because it helps to elevate physiological effort at a high perceived exertion, whereas the consistent and correct cadence induced by auditory-motor synchronization helps to optimize running economy.

Another study [2] measured oxygen consumption with synchronous, fast-tempo asynchronous, and slow-tempo asynchronous music. They found that the physiological effects of exercising with synchronous music was the most effective.

You mention walking in your question, and while walking is less an exercise than running or more rigorous physical activity, the results from both studies would suggest that people tend to respond 'best' to synchronicity between their movements and the music that they are listening to. Thus, humans have a natural tendency to match their steps to the tempo of this music.

Unsurprisingly, people also tend to move more energetically in response to louder, more aggressive music, and move less energetically to gentler, softer music. This is true regardless of the tempo of the music.


Sources used:

[1] Bood, Robert Jan et al. “The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronization in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence with the Right Beats.” Ed. Ramesh Balasubramaniam. PLoS ONE 8.8 (2013): e70758. PMC. Web. 24 Aug. 2015.

[2] Effect of music-movement synchrony on exercise oxygen consumption. C. J. Bacon, T. R. Myers, C. I. Karageorghis. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 August; 52(4): 359-365.


Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin, PhD, studies the neuroscience of music and how music affects our mental and physical health. Levitin is a professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of the book “This Is Your Brain on Music.” Levitin has degrees in cognitive psychology and cognitive science from Stanford University and the University of Oregon. He has acted as an audio consultant for the U.S. Navy and consulted on audio quality for several rock bands and record labels.

Audrey Hamilton: What kind of music helps you relax? Maybe something classical? <classical music> How about this? <rock music> Different kinds of music can certainly alter how we feel or even how fast our heart beats. But, what effect does music have on our brains or even our health? In this episode, a neuropsychologist discusses how research is changing the way we understand the power of music. I’m Audrey Hamilton and this is “Speaking of Psychology.”

Psychologist Daniel Levitin is a professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University in Montreal. A former rock musician and studio producer, he now studies the neuroscience of music and how music impacts our mental and physical health. He’s also the author of the bestselling book “This is Your Brain on Music.” Thank you for joining us, Dr. Levitin.

Daniel Levitin: Thank you for having me.

Audrey Hamilton: I don’t think it’s surprising to most people that music can impact us emotionally. You know, music moves people. But when it comes to our health, such as pain management or stress, how does music impact our brains? Can music even replace medicine in some situations?

Daniel Levitin: Well, it depends on what you mean by medicine. Lots of things that we do affect our physiology – exercise does and so we can say that exercise replaces medicine when it has the desired outcome in terms of our physiology – our mental and physical physiology. And we've seen evidence now that music can alter brain chemistry and even the production of cytokines, immunoglobulin A, and other components of a healthy immune system.

Audrey Hamilton: When we talk about music therapy and music interventions, what is the difference? In other words, what does the term “intervention” mean?

Daniel Levitin: In the literature, there’s a tendency to talk rather loosely about music therapy without respecting the definition of music therapy by the American Music Therapy Association. So, I've tended to use the word music intervention as a term more broadly to talk about musical interactions that aren't necessarily music therapy. Just to clarify, music therapy is the evidence-based use of music in clinical situations that help people reach desired health outcomes. And it’s normally practiced by a licensed music therapist – a music therapy practitioner – and there are special training programs for that. So, if we use the word music therapy generically the way we use Kleenex to refer to any tissue, we’re not being precise. So, a number of us in the field have opted for the word reserved music therapy for things that fit that definition that involves a licensed music therapist and to use musical intervention just to mean anything else. So, if somebody is listening to music or they’re engaged in guided imagery or they’re playing an instrument in a therapeutic context or an experimental context – but it doesn't conform to the definition of the American Music Therapy Association – then it’s music intervention.

Audrey Hamilton: Can you give me an example of what a music intervention – I mean, I know you said it’s a very broad term – but, in your research, what would you consider a music intervention?

Daniel Levitin: Well, a music intervention would be in a hospital where you’re doing an experiment and you might randomly assign some people in a pre-operative staging area to relaxing music and other people to a Valium and other people to a placebo. That’s not being, if it’s not conducted by a licensed music therapist and it’s not following their protocols, then it’s an intervention and not music therapy.

Audrey Hamilton: But, a lot of what the work that I know that you have analyzed and looked at and conducted yourself is focusing on just more evidence-based research on how music affects us.

Daniel Levitin: You know, I’m glad you mentioned the evidence-based part because there’s been a lot of pseudoscience and just a lot of anecdotes about music, but relatively little actual experiments – true experiments in science. But the direction that it’s going is that in the last five years, people are increasingly conducting controlled experiments with proper controls and with proper methods. And we’re finding that early evidence, you know there’s not a whole lot of work on which to base this, but early evidence says that music can alter pain thresholds. It can increase immune system functions. There’s stronger evidence that it can affect mood and heart rate and respiration rate. So, fast stimulating music stimulates the production of adrenaline and other hormones that get your heart racing faster and your pulse increases and blood pressure increases and then soothing, relaxing music has the opposite effect.

The interesting thing here is that what I am calling stimulating or relaxing music is relative. It’s subjective to the listener. It doesn't work so well if the experimenter or the therapist says I’m playing you some stimulating music. The person has to find it stimulating themselves.

Audrey Hamilton: How do you determine that? How do you determine what someone finds more relaxing then another person?

Daniel Levitin: We usually just ask them. We ask them to bring in a piece of music that they find stimulating or relaxing. So, that part of it is subjective and people are pretty good at that.

Audrey Hamilton: What do you find the most intriguing about where this research is going?

Daniel Levitin: I think that it’s in some cases it’s going to confirm intuitions that many people have about how music can function in their lives, so we’re already in a place and a time where people are using music as medicine. They’re using music much as they use drugs. The average person hears five hours of music a day and many people instinctively reach for a certain kind of music to suit certain occasions, so if you’re having a party, you play one kind of music. If you’re relaxing after a long day at the office you play another kind of the music. The kind of music you play when you’re trying to wake up in the morning is different from the kind you play when you’re trying to go to sleep at night. Now, not everybody does this but a large number of people report in surveys that they’re in affect, programming music to suit a desired mood outcome and so in that sense they’re using music for mood regulation.

Audrey Hamilton: Right. Is it really the music that’s affecting us or is it the act of listening to music, you know, sometimes people listen to it for distraction purposes?

Daniel Levitin: There has been some work where people try to find something that’s equally distracting, so you can hold distraction constant and potentially engaging, something equally potentially engaging. And, it seems as though – I wouldn't say music has special properties – but, it has the ability to distract or engage in ways that other stimuli don’t.

It’s a very complex multi-dimensional stimulus. There’s a lot going on there. You've got rhythm and you've got timbre and you've got pitch and loudness and they’re all changing. They’re correlated changes, but their changing and so it’s a very highly structured medium.

Audrey Hamilton: You often hear about how listening to classical music, you know, can make us smarter, even babies. Is that true? What have you learned about how music affects our cognitive abilities?

Daniel Levitin: I think you’re referring to the paper that came out many years ago by Rauscher and her colleagues that music, listening to Mozart for 20 minutes makes you show improvement on IQ tests, was the headline. And there have been a lot of studies by a number of people, including Bill Thompson and Glen Schellenberg and others that have pretty much debunked that. But, there are tantalizing clues in the literature that music is doing some things. I think the people in the field disagree about the size of the affects and the importance of it. But, the emerging picture is that it’s not so much listening to music but learning to play an instrument and being a player can confer some advantages in other areas. It seems to provide attentional training and on a social side, kids who play in musical groups in elementary school, in grammar school, tend to be more well-socialized. And you can sort of spin a story about why that might be, although that doesn't mean it’s science. A kind of post-facto story would be, well, if you’re playing an instrument in a little ensemble, you've got to coordinate your actions with other kids. You've got to listen to what they’re doing in order to make your part fit. And so, you've got to step outside yourself and become a little bit more empathetic. In that respect, it’s kind of like team sports that may confer the same advantages as opposed to passive listening, which doesn't appear to confer those advantages.

Audrey Hamilton: Hmm, that’s interesting. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Levitin. I really appreciate you taking the time and this has been very, very interesting. Thank you.

Daniel Levitin: Thank you.

Audrey Hamilton: For more information on Dr. Levitin’s work and to hear more podcasts, visit our website . With the American Psychological Association’s “Speaking of Psychology,” I’m Audrey Hamilton.


The Power of Music To Reduce Stress

The soothing power of music is well-established. It has a unique link to our emotions, so can be an extremely effective stress management tool.

Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives.

As music can absorb our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This means it can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind wandering.

Musical preference varies widely between individuals, so only you can decide what you like and what is suitable for each mood. But even if you don&rsquot usually listen to classical music it may be worth giving it a try when selecting the most calming music.

When people are very stressed, there is a tendency to avoid actively listening to music. Perhaps it feels like a waste of time, not helping to achieve anything. But as we know, productivity increases when stress is reduced, so this is another area where you can gain vast rewards. It just takes a small effort to begin with.

To incorporate music into a busy life, try playing CDs in the car, or put the radio on when in the bath or shower. Take portable music with you when walking the dog, or put the stereo on instead of the TV. A person with clinical depression or bipolar disorder might listen to music to help with their worst, lowest moods.

Singing (or shouting) along can also be a great release of tension, and karaoke is very enjoyable for some extroverts! Calming music before bedtime promotes peace and relaxation and helps to induce sleep.

Research on Music

Music has been used for hundreds of years to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. But more recently, scientific studies have attempted to measure the potential benefits of music. These research studies have found:

  • Music&rsquos form and structure can bring order and security to disabled and distressed children. It encourages coordination and communication, so improves their quality of life.
  • Listening to music on headphones reduces stress and anxiety in hospital patients before and after surgery.
  • Music can help reduce both the sensation and distress of both chronic pain and postoperative pain.
  • Listening to music can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings in elderly people.
  • Making music can reduce burnout and improve mood among nursing students.
  • Music therapy significantly reduces emotional distress and boosts quality of life among adult cancer patients.

Meditation

Certain music is appropriate for meditation as it can help the mind slow down and initiate the relaxation response. However, not all peaceful or &ldquoNew Age&rdquo music works for everyone. Music with no structure can be irritating or even unsettling. Gentle music with a familiar melody more often is comforting. But search around to find what produces a sense of calm, familiarity, and centeredness for you as an individual.

The sounds of nature often are incorporated into CDs made specifically for relaxation. For example, the sound of water can be soothing for some people. It can help conjure up calming images such as lying beside a mountain stream on a warm spring day. Birdsong may also be of use as an aid to help your mind slow down and release stressful thoughts.

Music Therapy

Because music has the potential to influence us both psychologically and physiologically, it is an important area of therapy for stress management. Music therapy can make use of biofeedback, guided imagery, and other established techniques to play an important role in the treatment of people with stress-related disorders. But due to the dramatic effects music can have, a trained and knowledgeable music therapist always is required.

When used in combination with biofeedback techniques, music can reduce tension and facilitate the relaxation response. It may be more compatible with relaxation than verbal stimuli, which may be distracting &mdash music is processed mainly in nonverbal areas of the brain.

Music may help people to identify and express the feelings associated with their stress. In a music therapy session, the client can express these emotions, providing an important cathartic release.

Producing music in an improvisational way, and discussing pieces of music and lyrics in a group, can also help us become more aware of our emotional reactions and share them constructively with the group.

Thinking More Clearly

Finally, listening to music can help the brain by improving learning and memory skills, always useful when we&rsquore under stress. This has come to be known as &ldquoThe Mozart Effect.&rdquo Experiments carried out by scientists at the University of California at Irvine found that students&rsquo test scores improved after listening to a recording of Mozart, compared with either a relaxation tape or silence. This may be because the processing of music shares some of the same pathways in the brain as memory.


CONCLUSION

An enhancement of spatial-temporal reasoning performance after listening to Mozart's music for 10 minutes has been reported by several, but not all, researchers. Even in the studies with positive results the enhancement is small and lasts about 12 minutes. The effect varies between individuals and depends upon the spatial tasks chosen general intelligence is not affected. Rather more impressively, there is a beneficial effect on some patients with epilepsy. The results are not specific to Mozart's compositions but the exact musical criteria required have not been completely defined.

The practical use of such observations is as yet uncertain, especially since many of the experiments relate only to short listening periods to Mozart's piano sonata K448. More studies are necessary, involving longer-term exposure to Mozart and to a wide selection of other composers, before the effect can be fully assessed.


Music makes us enjoy exercise more, finds brain study

Hate going to the gym? A new study may have found a way to make exercise more fun: put on your favorite tune.

Share on Pinterest Researchers suggest that listening to music may increase our enjoyment of exercise.

Researchers reveal that while listening to music during a workout doesn’t increase focus on the task at hand, it does make exercise much more enjoyable.

Study co-author Marcelo Bigliassi, from Brunel University London in the United Kingdom, and his colleagues came to their findings by using electroencephalography (EEG) technology to monitor the brain’s response to music while participants engaged in physical activity.

The researchers recently reported their results in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

It’s no secret that music has the ability to elicit emotional responses research backs up this fact. A song can make us feel happy, sad, angry, empowered, or motivated. The latter is one reason why many of us reach for the headphones when we go for a run.

But how exactly does the brain respond to music when we exercise? It was this that Bigliassi and colleagues set out to answer.

“The brain mechanisms that underlie the psychological effects of auditory stimuli during physical activity are hitherto under-researched particularly so in ecologically valid settings,” the study authors note.

To address this research gap, the team used EEG to assess how music or a podcast affected the brain during exercise, compared with no auditory stimuli.

“The EEG technology facilitated measurement during an ecologically valid outdoor task, so we could finally explore the brain mechanisms that underlie the effects of music during real-life exercise situations,” says Bigliassi.

A total of 24 study participants walked 400 meters on an outdoor track at a pace of their choice under one of three conditions: some subjects walked while listening to 6 minutes of the song Happy by Pharrell Williams some participants listened to a podcast of a TED talk and some subjects did not listen to any sound.

During the walking task, the participants’ brainwaves were measured using EEG. Also, the scientists assessed how each of the three auditory conditions affected the participants’ attention during the walking task, as well as how they affected their feelings of alertness and fatigue.

The researchers found that listening to music led to a 28 percent increase in enjoyment during the walking task, compared with no auditory stimuli. Enjoyment was also 13 percent higher for those who listened to music, compared with those who listened to a podcast.

These effects were associated with an increase in beta waves in the frontal and frontal-central regions of the cerebral cortex, the team reports.

“ We showed that music has the potential to increase beta waves and elicit a more positive emotional state. This can be capitalized upon during other forms of exercise and render a given activity more pleasurable.”

Marcelo Bigliassi

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that all adults do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.

However, almost half of adults in the United States fail to meet these guidelines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bigliassi says that for people who avoid exercise because they don’t enjoy it, listening to some music might be one way to turn this around.


Psychophysical and ergogenic effects of synchronous music during treadmill walking

The present study examined the impact of motivational music and oudeterous (neutral in terms of motivational qualities) music on endurance and a range of psychophysical indices during a treadmill walking task. Experimental participants (N=30 mean age=20.5 years, SD=1.0 years) selected a program of either pop or rock tracks from artists identified in an earlier survey. They walked to exhaustion, starting at 75% maximal heart rate reserve, under conditions of motivational synchronous music, oudeterous synchronous music, and a no-music control. Dependent measures included time to exhaustion, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), and in-task affect (both recorded at 2-min intervals), and exercise-induced feeling states. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze time to exhaustion data. Two-way repeated measures (Music Condition ? Trial Point) ANOVAs were used to analyze in-task measures, whereas a one-way repeated measures MANOVA was used to analyze the exercise-induced feeling states data. Results indicated that endurance was increased in both music conditions and that motivational music had a greater ergogenic effect than did oudeterous music (p<.01). In addition, in-task affect was enhanced by motivational synchronous music when compared with control throughout the trial (p<.01). The experimental conditions did not impact significantly (p>.05) upon RPE or exercise-induced feeling states, although a moderate effect size was recorded for the latter (etap2=.09). The present results indicate that motivational synchronous music can elicit an ergogenic effect and enhance in-task affect during an exhaustive endurance task.


What is the effect of listening to music on walking? - Psychology

From the introduction of aerobic dance in the early 70's, it has generally been regarded that the music accompaniment to exercise provides an important beneficial effect to the exercise experience. Many health and fitness instructors regard the addition of music to exercise similarly to an ergogenic aid, with the removal of music or an inappropriate selection of music as a sure bet to an unsuccessful class. However, it may come as a surprise that scientific evidence has conflicting results when it comes to investigating the effects of music on exercise performance. In this article, a research review of the literature will be presented and discussed, exploring the following:
1) the effects of music on respiration and heart rate,
2) the effects of different types of music on physical strength,
3) the effects of music and rhythmic stimuli in the rehabilitation of gait disorders
4) the effects of music on endurance performance,
5) the effects of rhythmic accompaniment upon learning fundamental motor skills
6) the influence of music elements on aerobic fitness

Effects of Music on Respiration and Heart Rate
The effects of music on respiration and cardiac activity have been of particular focus to researchers due to the value of these physiological parameters to health and disease prevention. The ability to control cardiac activity may be desirable in the treatment of various heart conditions. However, much of the early research on the physiological response to music has been rejected by researchers because of poor research designs, inadequate procedures, and limits of the equipment (Dainow, 1977) . In a well-designed study, Ellis and Brighouse (1952) noted that respiration rate increased significantly with the onset of jazz music and tends to return to pre-music levels with the cessation of music. Heart rate was only moderately effected by the introduction of the music. The average heart rate is between 72-80 beats per minute while music tempos may range from 70 to 170 beats per minute. A review of studies indicates that heart rate tends to only moderately follow the music increasing in response to fast music and decreasing in response to slow music (Dainow, 1977) . Dainow cites several investigations that actually show any type of music (sedative or stimulative) will show a moderate increase in heart rate. Much of this increase in heart rate by all types of music can be explained due to the fact that music does produce some kind of emotional effect, thus increasing the heart rate.
Application: The research applications suggest that fitness teachers may benefit their students by playing music that in many ways depicts the intensity of the upcoming workout as students enter the workout room. In this way, the increases in respiration and moderate increases in heart rate from the music will better prepare the students for the forthcoming workout.

Effects of Different Types of Music on Physical Strength
Surprisingly, only one investigator has thoroughly conducted research comparing the influence of stimulative music, sedative music, and silence (no music) on measured grip strength (Pearce, 1981) . Subjects were 33 male and 16 female undergraduate students randomly assigned to the order of the three types of stimulation (stimulative, sedative, and silence). Analysis indicated that listening to sedative music decreased strength significantly when compared to stimulative music and silence. However, no statistical significant difference was seen between stimulative music and silence.
Application: It appears that sedative music may actually decrease a person's muscular fitness potential training ability. This is congruent with early pioneering research that shows muscle tension can be altered by choice of music: stimulating music increasing muscle tension with sedative music decreasing muscle tension (Sears, 1957) . Although more research is needed, the lack significant difference in strength comparing stimulative music to silence suggests that personal trainers would be well-advised in surveying their clients as to their perceived best workout environment (with or without music accompaniment).

The Effects of Music and Rhythmic Stimuli in the Rehabilitation of Gait Disorders
Neuromuscular and skeletal disorders may seriously affect the quality of a person's life by limiting a person's daily functioning capacity and impeding mobility. Research has steadfastly demonstrated that external auditory cues, such as rhythmic music and percussion pulses favorably affects coordinated walking and proprioceptive control (Rudenberg, 1982 Staum, 1983) . It has been suggested that the music or auditory stimuli improves gait regularity due in part to the use of the beat, which helps individuals to anticipate the desired rate of movement.
Application: Many health and fitness professionals are currently working with the physically challenged, due to neuromusuclar or orthopedic disorders. The use of music and auditory stimuli can be advocated to enhance a person's gait and gross motors skills, leading to increased stability and mobility of the clients.

The Effects of Music on Exercise Performance
Studies investigating the effects of music on exercise performance have revealed inconsistent data. Music accompaniment has been shown to improve muscular endurance in the performance of junior high students doing sit-ups (Chipman, 1966) and college women doing push-ups (Koschak, 1975) , while it did not enhance the running speed of female youth (Leslie, 1967) . In contrast, college-aged males and females were able to walk farther and with less effort when exercising to music as compared to no music (Beckett, 1990) . In a well-designed study, Schwartz, Fernhall and Plowman (1990) investigated the effect of music on submaximal bicycle performance with untrained college men and women. Music exhibited no significant influence on any physiological variable measured (aerobic capacity, ventilation, respiratory exchange ratio, heart rate, and blood lactates). In addition, the psychological perception of effort was not altered with or without the music stimulus, although subjects felt they performed better with the music. Another investigation of submaximal intensity walking/jogging on a treadmill showed that subjects had longer times to exhaustion when listening to slow, soft music as compared to loud fast music (Copeland & Franks, 1991) .
A possible explanation to some of the discrepancies seen in these studies can be attributed to subject bias. In some studies the subjects were aware of the purpose of the study, which may have led them to try to "help the researcher." In studies involving music, "blinding" the subjects as to the purpose of the study will most likely improve the internal validity (see Reading and Enjoying Research) of the study.
Application: The practical application of this research is indirect. Research is unclear at this point as to the physiological effects music may have on exercise performance. New, well-designed and controlled studies are warranted. However, more important to the health and fitness educator is the exercise adherence of his/her students to the physical activity programs. Music in many ways may improve a person's enjoyment and compliance to a fitness program, therefore ensuring long-term benefits, such as enhanced quality of life and reduction of risk to coronary heart disease and other causes of death.

The Effects of Rhythmic Accompaniment Upon Learning Fundamental Motor Skills
In a rather large study with over 600 boys and girls in grades 1 through 6, Beisman (1967) compared basic motor skills such as throwing, catching, climbing, balancing, dodging, bouncing, and striking learned to music and no music. In all grade levels and in both genders, students learned the motor skills better, as demonstrated by performance tests, with the rhythmic accompaniment. In the discussion the author noted that the music produced a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for the students to learn.
Application : This study supports the value of music in teaching motor skills that many elementary physical education instructors and teachers are aware of from their empirical experience.


The Influence of Music Elements on Aerobic Fitness
Information obtained from 70 college students (35 males and 35 females) enrolled in an aerobic dance class indicated that 97% of the students felt (perceived influence) that the music affected their performance during aerobic activity (Gfeller, 1988) . Respondents identified the following factors which influenced their aerobic performance: music style (97%), rhythm [beat] (94%), tempo (96%), lyrics (77%), volume (66%), mood (37%), and melody (17%). A strong correlation between male and female responses indicated that gender is not a particularly important factor to consider when selecting music for an aerobic activity.
Application: Although the results of this study are best generalized to college-age students, some applications seem appropriate. The results of this study support previous research that indicates that music benefits students from a motivational standpoint (Nelson & Finch, 1963) , although not always from a physiological perspective. Subjects emphasized the role that mental attitude was enhanced as compared to physical skill. Also, the results of this study indicate that musical taste of the class (kids, seniors, boomers, college students, etc.) should be a consideration when selecting music for the aerobic activity. The preferred music may facilitate focus on the music or other external stimuli rather than the discomforts that often accompany strenuous exercise. Thus, music also has the capability to evoke pleasant associations, possibly masking unpleasant stimuli (such as heavy breathing associated with exertion) or serve as a distraction to internal feelings associated with discomfort (Boutcher & Trenske, 1990) . It should be noted that the exact neurological effects of music on pain or discomfort are not understood. However it has been clearly demonstrated that music can reduce factors contributing to pain and discomfort such as stress, tension, and anxiety (Maslar, 1986) .


Violent Music Lyrics Increase Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings, According to New Study

WASHINGTON - Songs with violent lyrics increase aggression related thoughts and emotions and this effect is directly related to the violence in the lyrics, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The findings, appearing in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, contradicts popular notions of positive catharsis or venting effects of listening to angry, violent music on violent thoughts and feelings.

In a series of five experiments involving over 500 college students, researchers from Iowa State University and the Texas Department of Human Services examined the effects of seven violent songs by seven artists and eight nonviolent songs by seven artists. The students listened to the songs and were given various psychological tasks to measure aggressive thoughts and feelings. One such task involved participants classifying words that can have both aggressive and nonaggressive meanings, such as rock and stick.

To control for factors not related to the content of the lyrics, the violent and nonviolent songs were sung by the same artists and were in the same musical style in three of the experiments. In the two other experiments, the researchers tested the arousal properties of the songs to make sure the violent-lyric effects were not due to differences in arousal. Also, individual personality differences related to hostility were assessed and controlled. The study also included songs with humorous lyrics to see how humor interacted with violent song lyrics and aggressive thoughts.

Results of the five experiments show that violent songs led to more aggressive interpretations of ambiguously aggressive words, increased the relative speed with which people read aggressive vs. nonaggressive words, and increased the proportion of word fragments (such as h_t) that were filled in to make aggressive words (such as hit). The violent songs increased feelings of hostility without provocation or threat, according to the authors, and this effect was not the result of differences in musical style, specific performing artist or arousal properties of the songs. Even the humorous violent songs increased aggressive thoughts.

The violent-song increases in aggressive thoughts and feelings have implications for real world violence, according to lead researcher Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D. of Iowa State University. "Aggressive thoughts can influence perceptions of ongoing social interactions, coloring them with an aggressive tint. Such aggression-biased interpretations can, in turn, instigate a more aggressive response -verbal or physical - than would have been emitted in a nonbiased state, thus provoking an aggressive escalatory spiral of antisocial exchanges," said Dr. Anderson.

The study investigated precursors to aggression rather than aggressive behavior itself. More research is needed, say the authors, to identify the short-term and long-term effects of violent song lyrics. Repeated exposure to violent lyrics may contribute to the development of an aggressive personality and could indirectly create a more hostile social environment, although the authors say it is possible that the effects of violent songs may last only a fairly short time.

"One major conclusion from this and other research on violent entertainment media is that content matters," said Dr. Anderson. "This message is important for all consumers, but especially for parents of children and adolescents."

Article: "Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings," Craig A. Anderson and Nicholas L. Carnagey, Iowa State University and Janie Eubanks, Texas Department of Human Services Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 5.

Lead author Craig Anderson, Ph.D., can be reached at (515) 294-0283 or by Email.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.


Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin, PhD, studies the neuroscience of music and how music affects our mental and physical health. Levitin is a professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of the book “This Is Your Brain on Music.” Levitin has degrees in cognitive psychology and cognitive science from Stanford University and the University of Oregon. He has acted as an audio consultant for the U.S. Navy and consulted on audio quality for several rock bands and record labels.

Audrey Hamilton: What kind of music helps you relax? Maybe something classical? <classical music> How about this? <rock music> Different kinds of music can certainly alter how we feel or even how fast our heart beats. But, what effect does music have on our brains or even our health? In this episode, a neuropsychologist discusses how research is changing the way we understand the power of music. I’m Audrey Hamilton and this is “Speaking of Psychology.”

Psychologist Daniel Levitin is a professor of psychology, behavioral neuroscience and music at McGill University in Montreal. A former rock musician and studio producer, he now studies the neuroscience of music and how music impacts our mental and physical health. He’s also the author of the bestselling book “This is Your Brain on Music.” Thank you for joining us, Dr. Levitin.

Daniel Levitin: Thank you for having me.

Audrey Hamilton: I don’t think it’s surprising to most people that music can impact us emotionally. You know, music moves people. But when it comes to our health, such as pain management or stress, how does music impact our brains? Can music even replace medicine in some situations?

Daniel Levitin: Well, it depends on what you mean by medicine. Lots of things that we do affect our physiology – exercise does and so we can say that exercise replaces medicine when it has the desired outcome in terms of our physiology – our mental and physical physiology. And we've seen evidence now that music can alter brain chemistry and even the production of cytokines, immunoglobulin A, and other components of a healthy immune system.

Audrey Hamilton: When we talk about music therapy and music interventions, what is the difference? In other words, what does the term “intervention” mean?

Daniel Levitin: In the literature, there’s a tendency to talk rather loosely about music therapy without respecting the definition of music therapy by the American Music Therapy Association. So, I've tended to use the word music intervention as a term more broadly to talk about musical interactions that aren't necessarily music therapy. Just to clarify, music therapy is the evidence-based use of music in clinical situations that help people reach desired health outcomes. And it’s normally practiced by a licensed music therapist – a music therapy practitioner – and there are special training programs for that. So, if we use the word music therapy generically the way we use Kleenex to refer to any tissue, we’re not being precise. So, a number of us in the field have opted for the word reserved music therapy for things that fit that definition that involves a licensed music therapist and to use musical intervention just to mean anything else. So, if somebody is listening to music or they’re engaged in guided imagery or they’re playing an instrument in a therapeutic context or an experimental context – but it doesn't conform to the definition of the American Music Therapy Association – then it’s music intervention.

Audrey Hamilton: Can you give me an example of what a music intervention – I mean, I know you said it’s a very broad term – but, in your research, what would you consider a music intervention?

Daniel Levitin: Well, a music intervention would be in a hospital where you’re doing an experiment and you might randomly assign some people in a pre-operative staging area to relaxing music and other people to a Valium and other people to a placebo. That’s not being, if it’s not conducted by a licensed music therapist and it’s not following their protocols, then it’s an intervention and not music therapy.

Audrey Hamilton: But, a lot of what the work that I know that you have analyzed and looked at and conducted yourself is focusing on just more evidence-based research on how music affects us.

Daniel Levitin: You know, I’m glad you mentioned the evidence-based part because there’s been a lot of pseudoscience and just a lot of anecdotes about music, but relatively little actual experiments – true experiments in science. But the direction that it’s going is that in the last five years, people are increasingly conducting controlled experiments with proper controls and with proper methods. And we’re finding that early evidence, you know there’s not a whole lot of work on which to base this, but early evidence says that music can alter pain thresholds. It can increase immune system functions. There’s stronger evidence that it can affect mood and heart rate and respiration rate. So, fast stimulating music stimulates the production of adrenaline and other hormones that get your heart racing faster and your pulse increases and blood pressure increases and then soothing, relaxing music has the opposite effect.

The interesting thing here is that what I am calling stimulating or relaxing music is relative. It’s subjective to the listener. It doesn't work so well if the experimenter or the therapist says I’m playing you some stimulating music. The person has to find it stimulating themselves.

Audrey Hamilton: How do you determine that? How do you determine what someone finds more relaxing then another person?

Daniel Levitin: We usually just ask them. We ask them to bring in a piece of music that they find stimulating or relaxing. So, that part of it is subjective and people are pretty good at that.

Audrey Hamilton: What do you find the most intriguing about where this research is going?

Daniel Levitin: I think that it’s in some cases it’s going to confirm intuitions that many people have about how music can function in their lives, so we’re already in a place and a time where people are using music as medicine. They’re using music much as they use drugs. The average person hears five hours of music a day and many people instinctively reach for a certain kind of music to suit certain occasions, so if you’re having a party, you play one kind of music. If you’re relaxing after a long day at the office you play another kind of the music. The kind of music you play when you’re trying to wake up in the morning is different from the kind you play when you’re trying to go to sleep at night. Now, not everybody does this but a large number of people report in surveys that they’re in affect, programming music to suit a desired mood outcome and so in that sense they’re using music for mood regulation.

Audrey Hamilton: Right. Is it really the music that’s affecting us or is it the act of listening to music, you know, sometimes people listen to it for distraction purposes?

Daniel Levitin: There has been some work where people try to find something that’s equally distracting, so you can hold distraction constant and potentially engaging, something equally potentially engaging. And, it seems as though – I wouldn't say music has special properties – but, it has the ability to distract or engage in ways that other stimuli don’t.

It’s a very complex multi-dimensional stimulus. There’s a lot going on there. You've got rhythm and you've got timbre and you've got pitch and loudness and they’re all changing. They’re correlated changes, but their changing and so it’s a very highly structured medium.

Audrey Hamilton: You often hear about how listening to classical music, you know, can make us smarter, even babies. Is that true? What have you learned about how music affects our cognitive abilities?

Daniel Levitin: I think you’re referring to the paper that came out many years ago by Rauscher and her colleagues that music, listening to Mozart for 20 minutes makes you show improvement on IQ tests, was the headline. And there have been a lot of studies by a number of people, including Bill Thompson and Glen Schellenberg and others that have pretty much debunked that. But, there are tantalizing clues in the literature that music is doing some things. I think the people in the field disagree about the size of the affects and the importance of it. But, the emerging picture is that it’s not so much listening to music but learning to play an instrument and being a player can confer some advantages in other areas. It seems to provide attentional training and on a social side, kids who play in musical groups in elementary school, in grammar school, tend to be more well-socialized. And you can sort of spin a story about why that might be, although that doesn't mean it’s science. A kind of post-facto story would be, well, if you’re playing an instrument in a little ensemble, you've got to coordinate your actions with other kids. You've got to listen to what they’re doing in order to make your part fit. And so, you've got to step outside yourself and become a little bit more empathetic. In that respect, it’s kind of like team sports that may confer the same advantages as opposed to passive listening, which doesn't appear to confer those advantages.

Audrey Hamilton: Hmm, that’s interesting. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Levitin. I really appreciate you taking the time and this has been very, very interesting. Thank you.

Daniel Levitin: Thank you.

Audrey Hamilton: For more information on Dr. Levitin’s work and to hear more podcasts, visit our website . With the American Psychological Association’s “Speaking of Psychology,” I’m Audrey Hamilton.


Music Is an Important Ingredient for Child Development and Parent-Child Relationships

Several recent articles in scientific journals point to the wide range of significant effects that learning and listening to music has on the brain development of children and adolescents. Other studies reveal that when parents share musical experiences with children and teens, including listening and/or dancing to music, as well as singing songs together, it has a positive effect on parent-child relationships.

Music’s Effects on Brain Development

Based on the use of various neuroimaging techniques, research shows how early music training (before the age of seven) produces actual physical changes in brain structure and function.

One study found an increase in the white matter in the corpus callosum (the switchboard in the center of the brain) which results in increased brain connectivity. Einstein learned to play the violin as a young child, and a study of his brain showed unusually strong connections.

Another recent study determined that early musical training increased the grey matter in the cerebral cortex, particularly in the sensory-motor area of the brain. The improved coordination this produces was also found to improve emotional regulation and the ability to inhibit responses to events. This, of course, enhances a child’s ability to handle frustration and avoid over-reacting to difficult situations.

Yet another finding from neuroimaging was that even brief musical training results in an increase in blood flow in the left side of the brain. This is thought to result in improved language processing ability.

In March 2018 at the National Institutes of Health Kennedy Center Workshop on Music and the Brain, a panel of scientists highlighted research findings showing that from infancy, children are responsive to listening to music, and the experience significantly contributes to language development. The group also noted that in addition to promoting language development, music has a positive effect on the development of other cognitive functions including attention, visual-spatial perception, and executive function.

Due to an increased interest in the relationship between music and brain function, a new field of study known as neuromusicology was created. Using brain imaging techniques in research conducted over the past few years resulted in the conclusion that music activates every known part of the brain. This applies to all of us when we listen to music. For musicians, the act of playing an instrument not only activates the brain but also influences brain development. In general, the brains of musicians are larger, and more extensively connected than those of the general population. They also have a superior working memory, auditory skills, and cognitive flexibility. All of these brain functions are enhanced due to neuroplasticity. This phenomenon, simply stated, is that active and passive activity over time “rewires” the brain by either forming and/or strengthening existing circuits or forming new neurons.

Music’s Effects on Academic Success

At the World Conference on Learning, Teaching and Educational Leadership held in 2012, research studies from multiple sources were shared. For a while now, music has been thought to provide an effective experience in schools for children to develop listening skills as well as for children with learning difficulties. A child’s active engagement in music can have many positive effects, including:

  • Perceptual, language and literacy skills
  • Numeracy
  • Intellectual development
  • Attention and concentration
  • Physical development and health

Music’s Impact on Social and Emotional Development

Playing an instrument can lead to a sense of achievement as well as an increase in self-esteem. Further advantages can include increased confidence, persistence in overcoming frustrations when learning is difficult, and self-discipline.

Working with the Miami Music Project, the Florida International University’s Community Based Research Institute conducted a study which looked at how school group music programs affected the “5 C’s” of social development: competence, confidence, caring, character and connection. The study followed 180 children, ages 8 to 17 years-old for a period of three years. These kids were participating in an orchestra model of music instruction. The results presented in February 2019 found that these students showed significant increases in all of the “5 C’s.”

To learn more about how music affects the brain, watch this video where Nina Kraus-Hugh Knowles, Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern University—describes the powerful neurobiological roots of music held in the deepest regions of our brainstem.

Starting Music Lessons at an Early Age Reaps Big Benefits

Listening to music at any age is beneficial, as is learning to play a musical instrument (even as an adult), which can result in personal satisfaction and positive changes in brain functioning. However, the current consensus of the experts is that maximum benefits are attained when musical training begins before the age of seven.

Parents are becoming more in tune with providing exposure to music early on. Earphones for the belly are now available so moms can let their baby start listening to music before they are born. Singing to your baby and providing access to simple toys that make musical sounds are a good start (more about singing to and with kids later). Providing toddlers with musical toys and playing along with them exposes children to the cause and effect of making sounds and they can learn to play simple toons.

Several programs provide an introduction of music education for preschoolers which include participation by parents. My wife and I love music, and we exposed both of our children to music early. I remember coming home from work one day and finding my wife lying on the couch with the stereo headphones on her belly. She said, “I’m giving him/her some culture.” Both of our kids also participated in early music programs, and we played along with them. They both can play several musical instruments. My daughter also sang in choirs for years and is using music in her work teaching special education students. My son works in the film/tv industry as an editor and now, after getting advanced training in music, is doing orchestration and composing for film.

Two outstanding music programs offer classes and lessons for young children with locations throughout the United States:

Music Together provides music and movement classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and parents. You’ll learn lots of ways to interact musically with your baby. They also offer family classes that include Mixed-Age, Babies, and Big Kids classes for children, parents, and caregivers. Music Together classes can be found at independent centers and in school settings in more than 3,000 communities around the world.

The Yamaha Music Schools provide music instruction for children and adults, starting at the preschool level. Preschoolers learn to play tunes on the keyboard, but in the group class, they are also are cleverly taught basic music theory. In the preschool class, parents are actively involved. Kids who continue in the program through Junior Advanced Class (8–9) become not only proficient in playing one or more instruments but can compose as well.

If you’re unable to find one of these programs available near you, another option is Lessonface, which offers online music lessons for children. Lessonface pre-screens music teachers in a large variety of instruments. You can easily book lessons for one or multiple children. Lessons happen over live (two-way) video conference. Parents can sit in (and are encouraged to) and observe the live lessons.

Sharing Musical Moments with Your Kids Will Improve Your Relationship

A research article published in the Journal of Family Communication in 2018 found that parent-child musical engagement with children and teens improved the relationship between parents and their children, particularly in the area of empathy and social interactions. Participating in music such as dancing or singing together requires synchronization.

Even simply listening to music activates areas of the brain associated with empathy, positive feelings, and pleasure. Neuroscientific research has found that listening to music results in the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure center of the brain.

You could say that participating in a musical activity together makes the participants more in tune with one another. This synchronization goes beyond the musical experiences to everyday life. Other research indicates that the development of empathy during childhood leads to prosocial behavior including cooperation and improved social interactions.

There are many ways parents and children can interact musically.

Singing often starts with parents singing a lullaby to their baby. Parents are encouraged to sing often to their babies and young children. Singing to infants and toddlers not only instills bonding, but it’s also vital to language development. With older children, you can sing along with them. Singing together gets you in sync with each other. Find fun songs you can learn to sing together one on one and with the whole family. Singing is a great activity for road trips, campfires and family nights. Here are some lists of songs you and your kids might enjoy singing together:

Dancing with kids can start with you picking up your baby, holding her close, and singing and dancing around the room. With a toddler, it could begin with “Ring Around the Rosy.” Look for songs your children like, and sing and dance along with the song. With school-age kids, let them teach you to dance with songs you both enjoy. Oldies are often a hit with all ages. Be silly and have fun. Follow this link for some ideas for dancing with kids’ music from Amazon.com. With your teens, again let them teach new dances to you, or the whole family could take up line dancing! Another idea is to get a workout video for kids and exercise together while also encouraging them to work out on their own. This is an excellent substitute for screen time while boosting physical fitness.

Listening to Music Together is great fun as well. Find your favorite tunes and enjoy. Try new music. Introduce your kids to listening to classical music at home. YouTube has some fantastic videos to introduce kids of all ages to classical music.

Going to a Concert Together is a wonderful way to spend some special time with your kids. If your community has a symphony orchestra nearby, many of them provide special programs for kids to introduce them to the classics. These programs are fun and usually are meant for kids and parents to attend together. Look for concerts for other types of music such as pop and country to attend with older children and teens.

Learning to Play an Instrument Together is an activity to consider for you and your child. Your participation would be a motivator for your child, and research shows that evolvement in music benefits cognitive functioning and social/emotional skills for adults as well. This could become a shared hobby/interest, and you could play duets together.

Singing in a Choir Together can be another way to share an activity with your teen. If you both like to sing, you should consider joining a church or community choir. When I was in high school, I sang in a church choir and thought it was cool when my dad joined. It brought us closer together.

Music has proven to be positive for development and as a joint activity. In my upcoming book, The Well-Balanced Family: How to Reduce Screen Time and Increase Family Fun, Fitness and Connectedness, I devote a whole section on the concept of connectedness. Connectedness creates a sense of belonging as well as feeling safe and secure. The basics include engaging in fun and meaningful activities, creating moments of close personal one-on-one time, developing family traditions, and providing personal space when needed. Sharing musical experiences with children fits in with two key ways to improve connectedness—play and family activities.


Methods

Participants

Participants were recruited by advertisement at the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (Figure 1). In a telephone screening, criteria for eligibility of interested participants (female sex, BMI between 18–25 kg/m 2 , 20–30 years of age, [Swiss] German as native language and a regular menstrual cycle) were verified. Female sex was chosen to control for gender differences, as sexual dimorphism in both the HPA axis response to psychosocial stress [48,49] and in physiological and emotional responses to 9 music listening [6,29,50] have been observed in the past. Given their confounding effect on the organism in general, and the HPA axis in particular, exclusion criteria of the current study were the following current depression, self-reported acute and chronic somatic or psychiatric disorders, medication, use of hormonal contraceptives, use of psychoactive substances, and excessive consumption of alcohol (> 2 alcohol beverages / day) or tobacco (> 5 cigarettes / day). Additionally, self-reported hearing deficits or tinnitus were exclusion criteria. Individuals with musical training were not included in the study. If eligibility requirements were met, and oral agreement was obtained, appointments were scheduled during the woman’s follicular phase (days 4-10) of the menstrual cycle to control for hormonal variation throughout the menstrual cycle.

Flow diagram of the process through the phases of enrollment, allocation and analysis.

In advance of the appointment, participants were sent a set of information and several questionnaires (see below). In the advance material, participants were informed about the course of the study, but were not given detailed information about the experimental stress paradigm. Study language was (Swiss) German. Participants were instructed not to drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages 48 hours prior to the study. Additionally, they were told to refrain from any exercise activities 24 hours prior to the experiment. Further, participants were asked to refrain from brushing their teeth or eating at least 60 minutes before the study. For their participation in the study, the participants were reimbursed with 50 Swiss Francs.

An a priori power analysis was conducted to estimate the optimal sample size to answer the main hypothesis of a decreased cortisol response in the music group when compared to the control groups. It indicated that 54 participants were required to reach an 87% power for detecting an effect of 0.15 when employing an alpha criterion of 0.05 of statistical significance.

Ethics Statement

The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The study protocol was approved by the ethics committees of the University of Zurich and of the Canton of Zürich. Oral and written informed consent from all subjects was obtained.

General procedures

Study design.

The experiment used a between subject design to compare the effect of acoustic stimulation (independent variable) on cortisol, sAA, HR, RSA, mood, and anxiety (dependent variables). There were three conditions prior to a stress test (Trier Social Stress Test, TSST, see description below): a music condition (relaxing music listening prior to stress test, RM), a water sound condition (an acoustic control condition including listening to sound of rippling water, SW) and a control condition (non-acoustic control condition including resting without acoustic stimulation, R). Seventy-eight participants fulfilled all study requirements and were randomly assigned to one of the groups. Eighteen participants were not able to keep their appointment (see Figure 1). Randomization was accomplished through the use of a computer generated randomization list.

Psychobiological stress induction.

All participants underwent a standardized psychosocial laboratory stress protocol. The TSST consists of an introduction (Intro) that lasts 2 minutes in which participants are introduced to the procedure of the TSST. Specifically, they are told that the TSST consists of a public speaking task followed by a mental arithmetic task in front of an audience. In the public speaking task (lasting 5 minutes), participants are asked to apply for a job. In this simulated job interview, they are asked to talk about their personal qualifications for the chosen job, e.g. why they are a better fit for the job than other applicants. Right after the job interview, participants are explained the nature of the mental arithmetic task, which lasts for another 5 minutes. The participants have to calculate backwards in steps of 17 from the number 2043. After each calculation error the participants are asked to re-start calculating from 2043. The TSST has repeatedly been found to be a reliable tool to activate both the HPA axis and the autonomous nervous system (ANS) [51]. In the current study, the standard TSST procedure as reported in the literature was slightly modified: in the Intro, the subjects were not told about the exact nature of the upcoming speaking task (i.e. giving a speech as part of a simulated job interview) in order to prevent subjects from mentally preparing for the task.

Study procedure.

For the current study, all examinations were conducted between 1200 and 1700h to minimize the confounding effect of the hormonal diurnal rhythm. Circadian fluctuations of hormone levels are particularly pronounced in the morning hours and flatten throughout the day [52,53]. Participants arrived at the laboratory 60 min prior to the onset of the stress induction by the TSST (Figure 2). Participants were then escorted to a non-intervention room, where they spent their waiting time between the actual experimental interventions. Immediately after arrival, participants were informed by the main experimenter about the course of the experiment. Oral and written informed consent was obtained from all participants. Right afterwards, the LifeShirt, an electrophysiological measurement device (see below), was attached. After an adaptation period of 30 min, a basal saliva sample (T1, -30 min) was taken. Twenty minutes prior to the TSST, the participants were brought to the TSST room, where they were introduced by the main experimenter to the procedure of the TSST (= introduction: Intro, 2 min). The subjects were then brought to the intervention room, seated in a comfortable chair, and provided with headphones. All participants had to adjust a test signal (sinus tone, sound pressure = -70dB) to the individual hearing threshold level for the calibration of the volume. After this, the participants were to undergo their assigned condition, i.e. RM, SW, or R for ten minutes. No instruction was given for any of the conditions. Immediately after this part a second saliva sample was taken (T2, -5 min). Following this, subjects were taken back into the TSST room where they were undergoing the TSST. After the completion of the TSST, the subjects were then returned back the non-intervention room and a third saliva sample was taken (T3, + 10 min). Further samples were taken 15 min (T4, + 25 min), 30 min (T5, + 40 min), 45 min (T6, + 55 min), and 60 min (T7, + 70 min) after the TSST. In addition, the subjects completed various self-report stress measures (see below) at T1, before and after T2, at T3 and T4.

Timeline of the testing procedure.

Music stimulus and acoustic control stimulus.

Miserere’ by Allegri (CD Gimell 454 939-2) is a soothing and calming music piece (Latin choral singing) that was chosen to induce relaxation in our subjects. The stimulus was selected on the basis of previous research [6]. We decided to use a single standardized music stimulus, as this approach is thought to have a greater effect on stress reduction than music stimuli selected by the subjects themselves [54]. Further, we wanted to avoid possible influences of memory or subjective associations with self-chosen music stimuli by participants.

We included a non-music acoustic control condition, i.e. listening to sound of rippling water, in our study. This control condition has been chosen to control for effects on psychological and physiological parameters, which might be caused by mere acoustic stimulation alone. The sound of rippling water is missing the typical characteristics of music, such as a structured melody and rhythm. Still, it is an acoustic stimulus with a certain perceptual quality for the listener. What is more, in comparison to artificially produced sounds (such as white or pink noise or single tones), the sound of rippling water may be presented for longer periods of time without exerting stress or boredom in the listener [50].

Measures

Electrophysiological and biochemical measurement and analyses.

Heart rate (HR) and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were measured with the LifeShirt® System, an ambulatory detection system that allows the continuous monitoring of cardiorespiratory parameters [55], and edited manually to correct for ectopic beats with the VivoLogic 3.1 software (Vivometrics, Ventura, CA, USA). RSA is a measure for variations in HR within a breathing sequence it is used as an indicator for parasympathetic cardiac control. HR and RSA were determined for 5-minute segments, ranging from a baseline interval prior to the Intro until 30 minutes after completion of the TSST.

For the analysis of cortisol (as an indicator of HPA axis activity) [15] and salivary alpha-amylase (sAA, as an indicator of autonomic activity) [16,17], saliva was collected using small cotton swabs (Salivettes, Sarstedt, Sevelen, Switzerland). Stimulated saliva was taken by having the participants gently chewing the cotton roll for 1 min. Thereafter, the cotton roll was placed into a small plastic tube. Samples were stored at -20° C until biochemical analysis took place. Salivary free cortisol was determined by using a commercial chemiluminescence immunoassay (LIA) (IBL, Hamburg, Germany). Inter- and intraassay coefficients of variation were below 10%. All samples of one subject were analyzed in the same run to reduce error variance caused by imprecision of the intraassay. Activity in sAA was analyzed using the microplate reader Synergy HT Multi-Mode (BioTek) and adapted assay kits obtained from Roche. The assay is a kinetic colorimetric test. Inter- and intraassay variance was below 1%.

Psychometric measurements.

Demographic information such as age, education, medication intake, nicotine use and illnesses were collected using a demographic questionnaire. Questionnaires were used to investigate the role of music preference and psychological factors.

The Music Preference Questionnaire (MPQ) [56] was used to assess participants’ general preference for Classical music, also in relation with their general music preference for the most common music styles: Pop, Rap / Hip Hop, Latin, Soul / Funk, Hard Rock, Electro, New Age, Country, and Jazz music. On a 5-point Likert scale participants indicated how much they liked the particular music style (1 ‘not at all’ to 5 ‘very much’).

The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) [57] was used to control for a possible impact of depression on the HPA axis response [58]. Scores higher than 18 are suggestive of clinically relevant depression.

Depending on the dispositional preferred emotion regulation strategy, different cognitions, emotions, and behavior may result in and after emotional situations. To control for the impact of how emotions are regulated in general the validated German version [59] of the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) by Gross and John [60] was used. The ERQ assesses two common trait emotion regulation strategies, reappraisal and suppression. Higher values on each scale denote greater expressiveness of the respective variable.

Visual analog scales (VAS) were employed to repeatedly measure subjective perception of stress during the experiment. To control for the experience of chronic stress in our sample, we used the screening scale of the Trier Inventory for the Assessment of Chronic Stress (TICS) [61], which assesses the global perceived chronic stress load of an individual with 12 items (Screening Scale of Chronic Stress, SSCS). Participants were required to rate how often they had experienced certain stressful situations during the past three months on a 5-point Likert scale. High values are indicative that the individual is often worried, overburdened, overstrained, and unacknowledged.

The State and Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) [62] was used to assess anxiety. The STAI consists of two 20-items questionnaires which assess state respectively trait levels of anxiety in clinical and non-clinical populations. Scores for both scales range between 20 (low anxiety) and 80 (high anxiety). The STAI-state was used as a continuous measurement for possible changes in anxiety during the experiment. The STAI-trait was used to control for the effect of anxiety as a personality trait in our sample [63].

The stimuli questions were used to assess the subjective perception of either music or sound of rippling water. Subjects were required to rate how much they liked the stimulus, and how relaxing they perceived the stimulus on a 5-point Likert scale immediately after the stimulus presentation. High values are indicative for increased liking and of an increased relaxing effect of the stimulus.

Statistical analysis

Data analyses were performed using SPSS (17.0) software packages (SPSS, Chicago, IL, USA). Homogeneity of variance was tested using Levene’s test before statistical analyses were applied. All reported results were corrected by the Greenhouse-Geisser procedure where appropriate (violation of sphericity assumption) [64,65]. In case of missing data, cases were excluded list wise. Analyses of variance (ANOVAs) for repeated measures were computed to analyze possible time, condition and interaction effects. For comparison of the scale means of the questionnaires with normative samples, Student’s t-tests were computed. Cortisol (-30 min to + 70 min), alpha-amylase levels as well as heart rate measures (-30 min to + 40 min) were evaluated according to the area under the curve with respect to increase (AUCI). The AUCI is related to the sensitivity of the biological system it is pronouncing changes over time, and is characterized by accumulation of the error of the baseline, as the formula is based on the difference between the baseline and the subsequent measures [66]. To estimate the extent of stress reactivity of cortisol, sAA, HR, and RSA, we calculated the delta measures of the stress responses (peak values after stressor minus baseline values before stressor), and refer to it as peak delta. For the estimation of a recovery value, we subtracted the first baseline value after the stressor from the peak values after the stressor (delta), and refer to it as recovery delta. Calculated measures of AUCI, peak delta and recovery delta were analyzed using ANCOVAs. For all analyses, results were considered statistically significant at the p ≤ 0.05 level, and were considered a trend at the p < 0.1 level. All tests were two-tailed. Unless indicated otherwise, all results shown are means ± standard deviations (SD).



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