Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden found that singing in concert regulates heart rates among members of a group. A group of 18-year old boys and girls were asked to perform three singing tasks together – hum a single tone and breathe as needed, sing a hymn and breathe as needed, and sing a slow mantra and breathe only between phrases. During each of these tasks, the researchers measured their heart rhythms.

The results of the study found that singing in a choir regulates the singers’ heart rates – increasing and decreasing at the same time. The researchers noted that singing requires a musically regulated and slower-than-normal breathing rate, and this has a “dramatic effect” on the heart’s pattern of contractions. While they also point out that the underlying mechanism between lungs and heart is not completely understood, they do suggest two possibilities:

* The interaction between “pulmonary stretch receptors” and the heart

*  A “cardiopulmonary oscillator” that connects brainstem nuclei.

Study leader Bjorn Vickhoff says that a good relationship between heart rate and breathing has physically and mentally soothing effects as well. He adds, “Singing regulates activity in the so-called vagus nerve, which is involved in our emotional life and our communication with others. Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states.”

The researchers hope that results from this study – the first to look at heart and breathing patterns across a group of singers could be used in rehabilitation and preventive healthcare in the future. They are also planning a study to test their idea that solo singing has different effects on the brain and the body than singing in a group…..     Medical News Today     7-10-13


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