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.”

[twitter-follow screen_name='jdwilson2']

soundoff (610 Responses)
  1. aika online gameplay

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I genuinely believed you would have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    May 4, 2021 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ray Ban Prescription Sunglasses

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!


    May 4, 2021 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Arizona Vision Center


    May 5, 2021 at 05:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kenworth w990


    May 5, 2021 at 07:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. aika private server english

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!


    May 5, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ford transit explorer

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going through troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 5, 2021 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. cheap gas near me


    May 5, 2021 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Steps Los Angeles


    May 6, 2021 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mercedes sprinter van

    Great blog you've got here.. It’s difficult to find excellent writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 6, 2021 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. business online training

    This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!


    May 6, 2021 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Blinds Orange County


    May 6, 2021 at 07:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. pcr covid test near me


    May 6, 2021 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Used Forklift Rental California


    May 6, 2021 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. thai restaurant near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. repair rv slide out


    May 6, 2021 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Forklift Rental

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering issues with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can't join it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Forklift Dealer Orange County


    May 6, 2021 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Craft Beer Classes Near Me

    Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 6, 2021 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Used Forklift Tires California

    Everyone loves it when people get together and share ideas. Great site, keep it up!


    May 7, 2021 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Forklift Service Near Me

    Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for providing this info.


    May 7, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. nurseries near me

    I could not refrain from commenting. Well written!


    May 7, 2021 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. rv tire installation near me

    This site really has all the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 7, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Forklift Parts Near Me


    May 7, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. 5Liter Kegs


    May 7, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Forklift Service Shop California

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after browsing through some of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m certainly delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    May 7, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. macys near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this website needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the info!


    May 7, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. rv a/c repair near me

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    May 7, 2021 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Social Media Marketing Mentors

    I really love your site.. Great colors & theme. Did you build this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own personal website and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Many thanks!


    May 7, 2021 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. tire stores in orange county ca


    May 7, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. resurge reviews 2021

    Hi! I know this is kinda off topic but I'd figured I'd ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or
    maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa?
    My website goes over a lot of the same topics
    as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.

    If you might be interested feel free to send me an email.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!

    May 8, 2021 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Local Marketing Consultant


    May 8, 2021 at 02:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Internet Marketing Pro

    Hello! I simply would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have got here on this post. I'll be returning to your site for more soon.


    May 8, 2021 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Internet Marketing Videos


    May 8, 2021 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Digital Marketing Events Near Me

    Excellent blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 8, 2021 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. windshield repair orange ca


    May 8, 2021 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Internet Marketing Service


    May 8, 2021 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Seo Marketing California

    Hello there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a very good read. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Google Marketing Companies

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that produce the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 18:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Content Marketing Masters

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you need to write more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don't discuss these issues. To the next! All the best!!


    May 9, 2021 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Google Marketing Quotes

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am having troubles with your RSS. I don’t know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar RSS issues? Anyone that knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 9, 2021 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Video Marketing Service


    May 9, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Local Marketing California

    I really like reading an article that can make people think. Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    May 9, 2021 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Local Marketing Service


    May 9, 2021 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Cabinet Near Me


    May 9, 2021 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Upholstery Los Angeles

    You've made some really good points there. I checked on the internet to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.


    May 9, 2021 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Fiberglass Los Angeles

    Great web site you have got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 9, 2021 at 21:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Social Media Marketing Firms Near Me

    Good blog you have here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 9, 2021 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Social Media Marketing Masters


    May 9, 2021 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Local Marketing Firm


    May 10, 2021 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Video Marketing Agency

    I was able to find good information from your blog articles.


    May 10, 2021 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Leave a Reply to Sprinter Climate Control Repair


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.

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.