Hyperventilation in anticipatory music performance anxiety

Psychosom Med. 2012 Sep;74(7):773-82. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31825e3578. Epub 2012 Jul 23.


Objectives and methods: Self-report studies have shown an association between music performance anxiety (MPA) and hyperventilation complaints. However, hyperventilation was never assessed physiologically in MPA. This study investigated the self-reported affective experience, self-reported physiological symptoms, and cardiorespiratory variables including partial pressure of end-tidal CO(2) (Petco(2)), which is an indicator for hyperventilation, in 67 music students before a private and a public performance. The response coherence between these response domains was also investigated.

Results: From the private to the public session, the intensity of all self-report variables increased (all p values < .001). As predicted, the higher the musician's usual MPA level, the larger were these increases (p values < .10). With the exception of Petco(2), the main cardiorespiratory variables also increased from the private to the public session (p values < .05). These increases were not modulated by the usual MPA level (p values > .10). Petco(2) showed a unique response pattern reflected by an MPA-by-session interaction (p < .01): it increased from the private to the public session for musicians with low MPA levels and decreased for musicians with high MPA levels. Self-reported physiological symptoms were related to the self-reported affective experience (p values < .05) rather than to physiological measures (p values > .17).

Conclusions: These findings show for the first time how respiration is stimulated before a public performance in music students with different MPA levels. The hypothesis of a hyperventilation tendency in high-performance-anxious musicians is supported. The response coherence between physiological symptoms and physiological activation is weak.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Capnography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperventilation / metabolism
  • Hyperventilation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Music
  • Performance Anxiety / metabolism
  • Performance Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Self Report