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Synchronous heartbeat among choir singers
Singing in a choir is known for its positive effects on the well-being of choir singers. A Swedish team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg has now investigated how these conditions come about and published their results in the specialist magazine "Frontiers in Neuroscience". Choral singing has both "a subjective and a biological calming effect, and it is good for cardiovascular function", the researchers concluded.
The coupling between the type of song and the effect on the cardiovascular function was striking, according to the Swedish scientists. Since in a choir all members sing more or less in unison, their heart activity is accelerated or slowed down in unison. The “implications regarding the effects on well-being and health are connected with this, as well as the question of how this inner common mode influences the perception and behavior of the choir singers”, must now be analyzed in further studies.
Controlled, slow breathing with effects on cardiac activity According to the researchers, the influence of choral singing on the cardiac activity of the members is due to the connection between breathing and heart rate (respiratory sinus arrhythmia). When singing, breathing is controlled and slower than normal, which also adjusts heart activity accordingly. The scientists observed this effect in the course of their study in a group of 18-year-olds of mixed sex, in which the test subjects were first asked to hum and breathe a single sound whenever they needed air. Then they should sing a song, also with free, unguided breathing. Finally, they sang a mantra in which they could breathe slowly and exclusively between the phrases. In parallel with the singing, the heart rate was continuously monitored.
Choral singing strengthens the cardiovascular function With the help of their study, the researchers were able to show how the structure of the song influences breathing and cardiac activity. The observed effect is consistent with the findings of previous studies on the effects of choral singing on the muscles and nerve activities. Choral singing has a biologically calming effect due to the slower, controlled breathing while strengthening the cardiovascular function. Here is a comparison with the breathing exercises of yoga. The unison vocals in the choir have the special effect that, with “regular song structures, they let the hearts of the singers accelerate and slow down at the same time”.
The positive effect of singing underestimated The effect of choral singing and internal synchronization on the social behavior of choral singers is, according to the Swedish scientists, an interesting question for future studies. Singing in a choir could possibly have a positive effect in terms of cooperative behavior. The idea is obvious, because without cooperation little works in the choir and also on other occasions such as sports events, collective singing is definitely an expression of a common will. Appropriate behavioral studies could clarify this. Overall, the positive effects of singing on health, but also social behavior, have so far often been underestimated. (fp)
Strengthen the heart through cardio training
Picture: Burkard Vogt / pixelio.de