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Medical English / 20. 7. 2009

Music to Soothe the Savage Beast / By Tom Secrest

By Tom Secrest

Everyone has their own particular taste in music. Some like opera, some rock, some jazz, and others like what appears to be random noise played a very high volume, although I think the technical name is hip hop. I only mention the latter because the person who lives in the flat above mine appears to fall into this category.

While my personal physiological reaction to the wall shaking racket coming from above is not what the researchers were talking about in their recent publication in the 30 June, 2009 issue of Circulation, I feel strongly that it should definitely be included in their future research. Working Title: Hip Hop Induced CVA.

Putting my personal issues aside, what the researchers did find was a very positive correlation between music, especially music with distinct dynamics (i.e. crescendos, decrescendos, etc) and heart rate, blood pressure, dermal blood flow, ECGs, and respiration. It might be expected that musicians would be naturally responsive, but the research was carried out on both those with established musical inclinations and those, like me, with no more musical talent than a monkey with a stick. The results, while more pronounced in the musically inclined, were still very much evident in the less musically disposed.

It is generally accepted that music can produce emotional responses, sometimes even strong emotional responses. Music is used by many to relax and reduce stress, while others find certain types of music to be motivational while they exercise at a fitness center. However, Dr. Bernardi and his research group form Pavia University in Italy, took specific steps to minimize the affect of the emotional response variable. Once accounted for, it became clear that, regardless of the perceived emotional response, or lack thereof, there was still a measurable and correlated physiological response to the dynamics of the music.

The current research used subjects between 24 and 26 years old. According to Dr. Bernardi, he next wants to examine the response in older patients, those more than 70. Dr. Bernardi also noted that in the new study, he will include a wider variety of music including rock. Future studies may also include coronary patients with sever functional limitations. In such patients, even modest gains in BP, HR and blood flow could be very significant, noted Dr. Franklin, director of the cardiac rehabilitation laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI.

Now when you enjoy your favorite piece of music you can relax even more knowing that it is not only good for you psychologically, but good for you physiologically as well. Conversely the next time you are subjected to ear splitting hip hop, consider that you may drop dead from a stroke or your heart may explode in you chest. It's all part of the musical score of life.


  • to soothe – mírnít, uklidnit, utišit
  • savage – divoký, neurvalý, krutý
  • appears to be – zdá se být
  • random – náhodný, libovolný
  • shaking –  otřásání
  • racket – hluk, randál, rámus
  • putting aside – zde: nechme stranou
  • heart rate (HR) – srdeční frekvence
  • distinct – zřetelný, přesný
  • blood pressure  (BP) – krevní tlak
  • blood flow – tok krve
  • established – zavedený, vžitý, tradiční
  • pronounced  – vyhraněný, výrazný
  • disposed – mající sklon, disponovaný
  • regardless – bez ohledu na, navzdory všemu
  • wider – širší
  • even modest gains – i malé zvýšení
  • conversely – obráceně, naopak
  • to split – štěpit, pukat, trhat
  • to consider – zvažovat, brát v úvahu
  • chest – hruď

About Tom Secrest / Tom Secrest online



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