Objective: Registration of the influence of musical rhythm on synchronisation and coordination of heart rate.
Design: Randomized pilot study.
Probands: 28 patients with chronic cancer pain in a stable phase of the disease.
Intervention: 14-day training of a relaxation therapy designed for improving the falling asleep, including a 30-minute lullaby-like, rhythmically dominated music with gradually decreasing tempi. No training in the control group.
Outcome measures: Continuous registration of heart rate and comparison with musical beat on day 1 and 15. Analysis of the degree of synchronisation, i.e. the coordination of systole and musical central time point (1st beat of the 6/8 time alla breve). Recording of the time of falling asleep and registration of the patient's subjective evaluation of the relaxation therapy and the pain intensity using verbal rating scales. Documentation of the use of analgetics.
Results: Under the relaxation therapy trained patients showed an increasing synchronisation and coordination of heart rate and musical beat. At a musical tempo between 48 and 42 beats per min a very stable 2 : 3 synchronisation occurred. Trained patients who reported the best relaxing and analgetic effects showed the highest degree of synchronisation. Relaxation therapy led to an improvement of falling asleep and to a decrease in consumption of analgetics.
Conclusions: Lullaby-like music within a special range of tempi can induce a trainable synchronisation of heart rate, functionally associated with the formation and intensity of a relaxation reaction. Further investigations are promising, however, substantial improvements in the measurement and documentation methods are needed.