Effects of music therapy on subjective sensations and heart rate variability in treated cancer survivors: a pilot study

Complement Ther Med. 2010 Oct;18(5):224-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.08.003.


Objective: Data on the effects of music therapy on subjective sensations and the physiological parameters of heart rate variability (HRV) in treated cancer survivors are scarce. The aim of this study was to determine whether or not music therapy affects the sensations of fatigue, comfort, and relaxation in cancer survivors, and affects the activities of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as indicated by HRV parameters.

Methods: Twenty-three patients aged 30-67 years and with cancer that had been treated at least 6 months previously received music therapy for about 2h, which included singing, listening to music, learning the recorder, and performing music. Subjective sensations and electrocardiogram were recorded before and after the music therapy. The low-frequency and high-frequency components of HRV were assessed by the frequency analysis of sequential R wave to R wave intervals of electrocardiogram obtained from 5-min recordings. Subjective sensations were quantitatively assessed using a visual analog mood scale.

Results: Two hours of music therapy significantly increased relaxation sensations and significantly decreased fatigue sensation in treated cancer survivors. Moreover, the HRV parameters showed that parasympathetic nervous system activity increased and sympathetic nervous system activity decreased.

Conclusion: This study provides preliminary evidence that music therapy may be clinically useful for promoting relaxation sensation and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity in treated cancer survivors.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Electrocardiography
  • Fatigue*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Relaxation
  • Sensation
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*