Study finds that when people sing in a choir their heart beats are synchronised, so that the pulse of choir members tends to increase and decrease in unison. This has been shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg that examined the health effects for choir members.
- Center for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
- Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
- Professional Musician and Composer, Musikalliansen, Torslanda, Sweden
- Department of Clinical Physiology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden
- Cantor, The Swedish Church, Sätila Parish, Hällingsjö, Sweden
- Department of Cultural Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
- Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden
- Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
- Mathematical Sciences, University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Choir singing is known to promote wellbeing. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA. The study comprises a group of healthy 18 year olds of mixed gender. The subjects are asked to; (1) hum a single tone and breathe whenever they need to; (2) sing a hymn with free, unguided breathing; and (3) sing a slow mantra and breathe solely between phrases. Heart rate (HR) is measured continuously during the study. The study design makes it possible to compare above three levels of song structure. In a separate case study, we examine five individuals performing singing tasks (1–3). We collect data with more advanced equipment, simultaneously recording HR, respiration, skin conductance and finger temperature. We show how song structure, respiration and HR are connected. Unison singing of regular song structures makes the hearts of the singers accelerate and decelerate simultaneously. Implications concerning the effect on wellbeing and health are discussed as well as the question how this inner entrainment may affect perception and behavior.