Effects of different "relaxing" music styles on the autonomic nervous system

Noise Health. 2014 Sep-Oct;16(72):279-84. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.140507.


The objective of this study was to assess the effects on heart rate variability (HRV) of exposure to different styles of "relaxing" music. Autonomic responses to musical stimuli were correlated with subjective preferences regarding the relaxing properties of each music style. Linear and nonlinear HRV analysis was conducted in 25 healthy subjects exposed to silence or to classical, new age or romantic melodies in a random fashion. At the end of the study, subjects were asked to choose the melody that they would use to relax. The low-to-high-frequency ratio was significantly higher when subjects were exposed to "new age" music when compared with silence (3.4 ± 0.3 vs. 2.6 ± 0.3, respectively, P < 0.02), while no differences were found with "classical" or "romantic" melodies (2.1 ± 0.4 and 2.2 ± 0.3). These results were related to a reduction in the high frequency component with "new age" compared to silence (17.4 ± 1.9 vs. 23.1 ± 1.1, respectively P < 0.004). Significant differences across melodies were also found for nonlinear HRV indexes. Subjects' preferences did not correlate with autonomic responses to melodies. The results suggest that "new age" music induced a shift in HRV from higher to lower frequencies, independently on the music preference of the listener.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Relaxation / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Statistics as Topic