Heart Rate, Brain Activity, and Mood

Music is a universal form of communication that has been around for tens of thousands of years.

It has evolved from using air to produce sound with flutes, to people singing together, moving forward to drumming on goatskin tied around hollow pieces of wood, to later using strings and bows to manipulate sound. Music in evolution continues to progress along with Homo sapiens.

As our species develops advanced forms of tools; it also provides musicians the ability to produce music for different listeners, settings and environments.

Originally, music was shared in between friends and family in central Europe. It grown into becoming a form of communication used during religious services. The harmonization between people created a bond between humans and spirituality. Along with heart rate, connecting people to a divine energy is one of the effects music can assist with in different religions around the world.

Heart Rate

Harvard Medical School reviewed different methods in which music was used in a form of medicine. They noted:

  • At Massachusetts General Hospital, a nurse-led team found that heart patients confined to bed who listened to music for 30 minutes had lower blood pressure, slower heart rates, and less distress than those who didn’t listen to music.
  • Another nurse-led team at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that heart attack survivors who listened to restful music in a quiet environment for just 20 minutes were less anxious about their health than those who rested in a quiet room without music.
  • At Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, men and women who listened to music soon after undergoing cardiac surgery were less anxious and reported having less pain than those who just rested quietly.
  • At the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, researchers measured blood flow through the forearm (a stand-in for blood vessel health) as healthy volunteers listened to music or relaxation tapes. Blood flow increased significantly while the volunteers listened to music that evoked joy or to relaxation tapes, and decreased while they listened to music that provoked anxiety.
  • In a study from Hong Kong, older volunteers who listened to relaxing music for 25 minutes a day for four weeks lowered their systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 12 points and their diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 5 points, while a control group that didn’t listen to music had no change in blood pressure.

Mayo Health Clinic also utilizes music therapy around surgery.

“We encourage patients to listen to music before, during, and after surgery,” says Susanne Cutshall, a clinical nurse specialist at Mayo.

The doctors use music to help engage the body physically.

Additionally, Jessica Grahn with TEDx summarizes research that connects music and brain function.

Music on the Brain: Jessica Grahn at TEDxWaterloo 2013


Fast Company looked at some of neurological effects of music on the brain. They reviewed some of the positive benefits, and some of the drawbacks music can produce.

Music is like any form of communication. It can inform us, move us, and effect us in many ways. Listening to music at home, on the road and during adventures can shape the way we look at the world. It can also transform us mentally, physically and spiritually.