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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
Music training 'good for heart'
Learning an instrument could boost relaxation abilities
Learning a musical instrument could be good for the heart, a study suggests.

Italian and British researchers compared the effect of a range of pieces, from Beethoven to techno, on musicians and non-musicians.

Tempo, rather than style, was found to be the greatest stress-buster in both groups, the study in Heart found.

But the effects were stronger for the musicians among the 24 people studied, as they had been trained to synchronise breathing with musical phrases.

Raga (slow) - Debabrata Chaudhuri: introduction from 'Raga Maru Behag'
Classical (slow) - Ludwig van Beethoven: 'Adagio molto e cantabile' from Symphony no 9
12 tone music (slow) - Anton Webern: 'Zart bewegt' from 'Pieces for orchestra'
Rap - Red Hot Chili Peppers: 'The power of equality' from 'Blood Sugar Sex Magic'
Techno - Gigi D'agostino: 'You Spin Me Round' from 'Techno Fes vol 2'
Classical (fast) - Antonio Vivaldi: 'Presto' from 'Estate', concerto for violin, orchestra and continuo

Scientists from the University of Pavia and the University of Oxford studied breathing and circulation in 24 young men and women, before and while they listened to short excerpts of music.

Half were highly-trained musicians, who had been playing instruments such as the violin, piano, flute, clarinet or bass for at least seven years. The remainder had had no musical training.

Each participant listened to short tracks of different types of music in random order, for two minutes, followed by the same selection of tracks for four minutes each.

A two-minute pause was randomly inserted into each of these sequences.

Relaxation techniques

Participants listened to raga (Indian classical music), Beethoven's ninth symphony (slow classical), rap (the Red Hot Chili Peppers), Vivaldi (fast classical), techno, and Anton Webern (slow '12 tone music').

One person's Mozart may be someone else's Madonna and it may be that different people find relaxation in different types of music
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, British Heart Foundation

Faster music, and more complex rhythms, speeded up breathing and circulation, irrespective of style, with fast classical and techno music having the same impact.

Slower or more meditative music had the opposite effect, with raga music creating the largest fall in heart rate.

Indications of relaxation were particularly evident during the pauses between tracks.

The effects were most evident in those with musical training.

The researchers suggest the effects of slow rhythms and pauses could be helpful in preventing or treating heart disease and stroke.

Writing in Heart, the team, led by Dr Luciano Bernadi and Professor Peter Sleight, said: "Appropriate selection of music, by alternating fast and slower rhythms and pauses, can be used to induce relaxation, and so can be potentially be useful for cardiovascular disease."

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, spokesperson at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "This small study adds to the work BHF scientists are doing to understand how positive emotional state and relaxation can contribute to our wellbeing.

"BHF researchers have already shown associations between emotions and signs of good heart health.

"People relax in different ways and it may be that music is key for some while for others curling up with a good book or taking a long walk is just as beneficial.

"One person's Mozart may be someone else's Madonna and it may be that different people find relaxation in different types of music."

Other research has shown that music can cut stress, improve athletic performance, improve movement in neurologically impaired patients, and even boost milk production in cattle.

Brain secrets of music melody
13 Dec 02 |  Health

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