Laura Sebastiani, Francesca Mastorci, Massimo Magrini, Paolo Paradisi, Alessandro Pingitore

Synchronization between music dynamics and heart rhythm is modulated by the musician’s emotional involvement: A single case study

Front Psychol. 2022; 13: 908488

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9493261/ Download

In this study we evaluated heart rate variability (HRV) changes in a pianist, playing in a laboratory, to investigate whether HRV changes are guided by music temporal features or by technical difficulty and/or subjective factors (e.g., experienced effort). The pianist was equipped with a wearable telemetry device for ECG recording during the execution of 4 classical and 5 jazz pieces. From ECG we derived the RR intervals series (tachogram), and, for each piece, analyzed HRV in the time (RR, RMSSD, Stress Index) and frequency domains (Total spectral power) and performed non-linear analysis (Multiscale Entropy). We also studied the correlation (Pearson) between the time course of music volume envelope and tachogram. Results showed a general reduction of parasympathetic and an increase of sympathetic activity, with the greatest changes during the classical pieces execution, the pianist appraised as more demanding than the jazz ones. The most marked changes occurred during the most technically/emotionally demanding piece, and correlation analysis revealed a negative association between music volume envelope time course and tachogram only for this piece, suggesting a modulation of the limbic system on the synchronization between heart rhythm and music temporal features. Classical music was also associated with the increase of entropy (1st scale) with respect to rest, indicating its effectiveness in driving flexible, healthy, heart dynamics. In conclusion, HRV seems modulated not only by the music temporal features, but also by the pianist’s emotional involvement, which is greatly influenced, in a non-trivial manner, by the technical demands and musician expertise.