home
RSS
Choir singers’ hearts beat as one
July 8th, 2013
06:16 PM ET

Choir singers’ hearts beat as one

Singing together can be an emotional experience.  As churchgoers, choir singers or sports fans raise their voices as one, they feel connected.

Turns out, that connection may have a physiological foundation. A small study suggests people who sing together have synchronized heartbeats.

Singers often inhale and exhale at similar times. When your heartbeat is connected to your breathing pattern, it’s called respiratory sinus arrhythmia, or RSA. RSA can have a soothing effect on the cardiovascular system. For instance, past studies have shown guided breathing – like what’s done in yoga – can be beneficial for high blood pressure problems.

“If this is correct, singing would probably have the same effect,” said Bjorn Vickhoff, a professional singer/songwriter-turned-neuroscientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Vickhoff is fascinated by music’s effect on the human body. He hopes to eventually find new ways music can be used in medicine, rehabilitation and preventative care. His latest study, published this week in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, focuses on how song structure can affect a singer’s heart rate.

The study

Vickhoff and his colleagues gathered 15 healthy 18-year-olds at a high school in Gothenburg. They had the group perform three different choral exercises while recording the heart rates of each person.

The first exercise was monotone humming, where the participants were told to breathe as needed. For the second exercise, the teens sang a popular Swedish hymn and took breaths whenever. The third exercise was a slow mantra; participants were instructed to breathe only between the long phrases.

These three exercises allowed the researchers to see how coordinated (the mantra) and uncoordinated (humming) song phrasing affected the participants’ heart rhythms while they were singing.

The results

The researchers found that each singer’s heartbeat was linked to the song’s melody – i.e. the speed and structure of the music. They also found that when the choir sang together, their heart rates tended to increase and decrease at similar times.

“As soon as the singing begins, (the hearts) start following each other,” Vickhoff told CNN in an e-mail.

Humming and performing the mantra as a group resulted in more synchronized heart rate variability, or HRV, than singing the hymn.

“The impression is that the heart cannot completely follow the respiration (guided breathing) when it has a more complex, hierarchical structure,” the study authors wrote.

The caveats

Four of the heart rate monitors malfunctioned, so only 11 sets of data were collected and analyzed. That’s a very small study sample to make any steadfast conclusions. The study will have to be duplicated with more participants.

The researchers did not look at whether the increased HRV had a positive effect on the study participants. And any effect would be temporary, Vickhoff said.

“We do have the ambition to map the body responses to music and make medical applications,” he said. “But we (need to) test this as rigorously as new drugs are tested.”

A ‘thrilling’ theory

Vickhoff likes to go beyond what his study analyzed to talk about the possible implications for this kind of music-body connection. In the journal article, he discusses the evolutionary question of why music is a universal phenomenon.

“David Huron, the cognitive musicologist, has suggested that music promotes bonding, and thus strengthens groups, which would have a survival value,” he said.

“Ultimately the knowledge that singing coordinates hearts is mind-blowing. If we, for instance, starting singing a slow hymn together in church, we now know that the hearts in the hall are coordinated. And the thrilling question is: How does this affect us?”

The study authors note that breathing together, whether it’s through meditating, praying or singing, is done in most religions.

“Joint action leads to joint perspectives,” they write. “In other words, singers may change their egocentric perspective of the world to a we-perspective, which causes them to perceive the world from the same point of view.”


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Richard Alexander

    This theory is not all that surprising, considering that merely listening to music tends to synchronize the listener's heart to the beat of the music. It has been known for a long time that shoppers tend to shop in pace to the music played. So, it is not surprising that something that connects a person as intimately to music as singing does would synchronize the singer's heartbeats.

    July 8, 2013 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rich

    Probably true. Just listen to an all womans choir, It's magical!!

    July 8, 2013 at 22:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. The Flamingo Kid

    How special. I feel all warm and fuzzy after reading this.

    July 8, 2013 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. John Smith

    Singing is good for you! Who knew? lolololol

    July 9, 2013 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LG

    I wonder if pets and/or wild animals heartbeats get synchronized as well...

    July 9, 2013 at 03:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Henrik

      How animals react to music i don't know. But the researchers compare the phenomenon to animals acting in groups, like fishes and wolves. Here's more on the research, with english subs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_SrlQdKNU0&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLF9EB8295A10334D9

      July 11, 2013 at 06:20 | Report abuse |
  6. Dan

    Gee. More proof that the heart rate increases when we inhale, and decreases as we exhale. Amazing that it also happens when we do it at the same time? Zzzzzz.

    July 9, 2013 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • legadema37

      Singing is not merely inhaling or exhaling. It's producing a deep emotional & spiritual connection through music.It also affects you physiologically & intellectually. You become very connected to people when you perform music together. That goes for ANY music group : rock ,jazz, classical, bands, orchestras, choirs, backyard groups & country music. I've been a choir singer & church soloist , since childhood : childrens' church choirs,adult church choirs, gospel choirs, opera choruses, been on international choir tours & performed great classical choral works with famous orchestras & conductors as a member of world class symphonic choirs. I have made & kept many close friends thru these choirs & performances. The power of music is such that music therapy is a recognized professional therapy for people who are injured, depressed, have PTSD, or are otherwise impaired. In fact, music therapy was used to help Gabby Giffords ( the Congresswoman shot in the head) start regaining her speech & motor skills. In fact, music is so rooted in the brain that many times,Alzheimers patients who no longer recognize family members & can't care for themselves, respond to music & start to become alert & can often sing old songs they grew up with. I have witnessed this. Your reply suggests that you have missed out on the glorious spiritual power of music.. How very sad.

      July 11, 2013 at 22:39 | Report abuse |
  7. John

    I was a choral director for nearly 40 years, and this doesn't surprise me whatsoever – choral singing is all about establishing strong relationships and the heart is definitely involved in that.

    July 9, 2013 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Catherine Clay

    I'm a very proud member of MUSE, Cincinnati's Women's Choir and I wholeheartedly agree with this article. Singing with my sisters is better than any therapy!

    July 9, 2013 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Katie

    Choral singing is the ultimate spiritual high. It's the best kind of team work. To be a truly great choir requires attention, awareness, listening, and connecting on all levels. There are no greater friends in the world than those you commit to sing with on a regular basis. If only this country would prize choirs (and the overal art & beauty of real music, not the trendy pop/rap/ country nonsense you hear on the radio chain stations) as much as the rest of the world does.

    July 9, 2013 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jason

      Don't try to pump up your preference by denegrating the preference of others. I sang in the Cincinnati Boychoir and church choirs as a young man so I do appreciate the choir genre, but it is not a style for all times and all people. Can't imagine listening to that on the beach any more than I can imagine death metal in a formal concert hall.

      July 11, 2013 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
  10. lightseeker

    I understand and thats why group meditation is so strong. Even though we are silent, there is a connection between us that one can feel. Its a magical feeling that instills peace, love and kindness into everyones hearts.

    July 9, 2013 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jennaamelia

    Reblogged this on jenna's jots and commented:
    interesting, reminiscent of concert choir

    July 9, 2013 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. xcberyrey

    ~Oh,Unbelievable~~ My best friend Elena has just married to a cool black man. They fall in love through~~ ВlackŴhiteHub. ℂom ~~ ~ They told me it is one of the top Black White SinglesMatchmaker dating site, Join free to date black women, white men, black men and white women. You can easily find someone real, serious, quality. Meet singles living in your local area or in countries around the world. .)If you are single, worth a try.xcbcxb

    July 10, 2013 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jason

    Is that Tonya Harding on the far right?

    July 11, 2013 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. elle

    Maybe if Congress would just sing together 'Oh, Beautiful ,for spacious skies..'at the start of each session, we would get things DONE. And I'm not even joking.

    July 11, 2013 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Zhao Ming Temple, located in Fuding Tongcheng west twelve li Aofong hill. Chase was built in the first year of the beam (527) Prince Zhao Ming created was created by an earlier Fujian royal temple. Zhao Ming Temple Fuding can glance at the whole picture,

    Definitely imagine that which you said. Your favourite reason seemed to be at the net the simplest factor to take into accout of. I say to you, I certainly get irked at the same time as other people think about concerns that they plainly don't know about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as defined out the entire thing with no need side effect , folks can take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

    July 13, 2013 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Anti-aging St. Paul

    Ahaa, its nice conversation concerning this post here at this web site,
    I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place.

    July 25, 2013 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JareHaike

    http://www.jpfukuoka.com/images/pl-8.jpg

    #12450;ウトレット特価☆80%OFF] シマロン SINDY ストレッチ ストレート カラー パンツ (CIMARRON ジーンズ ジーパン デニムパンツ)

    http://www.jpfukuoka.com/images/d1-139.jpg

    ブリクストン ターナー S/S Vネック ジャージ (Brixton TURNER V-NECK JERSEY Tシャツ)

    4,440円  4,200円(税込)

    アンビシャスオリジナルスウェット スペシャルモデル 1940年代復刻 両V 5th AIR FORCE プリント 丸胴 4本針 ブラック×ホワイト size F (VINTAGE ヴィンテージ 汗止め付き リブ長トレーナー)

    2013.10.01, Hondaライディングギア2013秋冬ウエアを公開いたしました。 2012.02. 24, 「ニューミッドコンセプト」シリーズの「NC700X」対応アクセサリーを公開いたしました 。 2011.08.29, 新ビジネス用原付スクーター「ベンリィ シリーズ」対応アクセサリーを公開 パター · ボール · レディス · アクセサリー · メーカー別 · アパレル · ドライバー · バック · ウエッジ · フェアウェイウッド · フルセット · アイアン · コストパフォーマンス · トレーニング · グローブ · ユーティリティ · シューズ · キャップ · レフティ · チッパー · その他 · ベルト スイフト#12487;ジタルカタログ] · ワゴンR#12487;ジタルカタログ] · スプラッシュ#12487;ジタルカタログ] · MRワゴン#12487;ジタルカタログ] · ソリオ#12487;ジタルカタログ] · 新型スペーシア#12487;ジタル カタログ] · SX4#12487;ジタルカタログ] · アルト#12487;ジタルカタログ] · Kizashi#12487;ジタルカタログ] バッグ・ファッション小物通販|【RyuRyu】(リュリュ)ファッション通販 20世紀最大の物理学者アルベルト・アインシュタインの肖像をプリントしたTシャツです。 アインシュタインと言えば、相対性理論をはじめとする数多くの業績と、その特異な風貌 とユーモアあふれる言動によって、世界中に広くその存在が知られていて、しばしば天才 http://www.jpfukuoka.com/%E3%83%AC%E3%83%87%E3%82%A3%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B9%E3%82%A2%E3%82%A4%E3%83%86%E3%83%A0-%E3%83%90%E3%83%83%E3%82%B0-c-8_14.html をチェック!全国のネット通販 ショップをまとめて検索。メンズTシャツの商品が簡単に探せます。 全11種(Sサイズ/Mサイズ/Lサイズ). □, 価格 各2,300円(税込) 各Tシャツに アイドルコメント入りフォトカード(1枚). □, 制作・販売 株式会社ブロッコリー. キミと おそろい。この夏を彩るオフィシャルアイテム。このTシャツのこと. Tシャツ! シャイニング事務所 ファッション雑貨・アクセサリーのネット通販。ネックレス・ペンダント・天然石・ パワーストーン・ブレスレット・ベルト用バックル・ニット帽・スーツ用ラペルピンブローチ などのオンラインショップです。 ピンクの服着て、いじめをなくす!? 「ピンク・シャツデー」って何?(Excite Bit イベントのお知らせ* | おひさま陽子のLumoアクセサリー

    ファッション小物の通販|【ラズレナ公式】安カワな人気通販レディース Tシャツに5000円とかかけてる奴って正気なのかよ 働くモノニュース ファッション雑貨/小物 – UNITED ARROWS LTD. – ユナイテッドアローズ 変なTシャツは万国共通 : 2chコピペ保存道場 文化祭やクラス行事、イベント・サークル活動、結婚式やギフトにも!仙台のスキル ワークでは、お客様オリジナルのデザインをプリントしたTシャツ・雑貨の制作を承って おります。 Munsingwear(マンシングウェア) | ボトムス – デサントオンラインショップ シューズ キャスト係数は4(1秒)。店売り不可。 星芒祭の催しの一つのスマイルブリンガー・ブート キャンプ中級(三国テレポエリア)で優秀なタイムを収めると入手できる。 エンチャントを 使用するとウサギ族に変身できる。ラビットベルトとは異なり、こちらは白いウサギである The latest from ベルアンドボトムス (@bellandbottoms_). 次回ライブは10月13日 島根県 はアポロにて! モンベル | オンラインショップ | クロージング | Tシャツ(半袖/長袖) 「島根は鳥取の左側です!」Tシャツ|はじまりターミナル|しまねはじまり アクセサリー一覧|家庭用ミシン|ブラザー – ブラザー工業 アクセサリー at 【楽天の個人輸入】. "コンピュータ > アクセサリー" & more. ボトムス チノパン・デニム・カーゴパンツの通販専門サイト『メンズ 加藤茶の妻・綾菜さんが売るアクセサリーはただの転売品?しかもかなり

    October 12, 2013 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.