A HEARTFELT RESPONSE TO MUSIC
Here’s good news for music lovers: Listening to your favorite music may be good for your heart. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have shown for the first time that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on our blood vessels. In the experiment, participants were asked to select music that made them feel good and gave them a sense of joy. “We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for cardiovascular health. So a logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect,” explained Dr. Michael Miller, who led the study.
The experiment was carried out on healthy, non-smoking volunteers in four phases. In the first phase, volunteers listened to music they had selected that evoked joy. The second phase included listening to music that the volunteers said made them feel anxious. In the third phase, music to promote relaxation was played, and in the fourth, videotapes designed to elicit laughter were shown. After each stage, the researchers used an ultrasound device to measure changes in the volunteers’ blood vessels. The measurements were repeated over several months to check for consistency.
The results showed a clear correlation between the subjects’ attitude toward the music and their body’s physical reaction to it. The researchers found that listening to joyful music caused the volunteers’ blood vessels to dilate, thereby increasing blood flow to the heart. In contrast, when the participants listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels contracted, reducing blood flow to the heart. The changes were significant. Blood vessel diameter increased 26 percent after the joyful music phase, while listening to music that caused anxiety narrowed the blood vessels by 6 percent. “I was impressed with the highly significant differences both before and after listening to joyful music as well as between joyful and anxious music,” said Dr. Miller.
Interestingly, most of the participants in the study selected country music as the kind of music that evoked joy, while heavy metal music made them feel anxious. “I enjoy country music, so I could appreciate why country music could cause that joyful response,” Miller said. However, Miller, who also enjoys rock, classical and jazz, believes he could have selected other individuals and the favorite could have been another type of music. But would other types of music have produced similar effects on the volunteers’ blood vessels, the researchers wondered. Dr. Miller believes it is possible. “The answer, in my opinion, is how an individual is ‘wired’. We’re all wired differently, we all react differently.” He adds that there is a need for further research.
Nevertheless, Dr. Miller is pleased by the findings of the study: “Needless to say, these results were music to my ears because they signal another preventive strategy that we may incorporate in our daily lives to promote heart health.”
(Adapted from “Joyful Music May Promote Heart Health”, University of Maryland Medical Center / www.umm.edu)
Answer these questions in English according to the article.
Why were measurements taken more than once? (lines 9-16)
The researchers wanted to know if the participants would: