Active and Passive Rhythmic Music Therapy Interventions Differentially Modulate Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System Activity.

Author: McPherson T1,2, Berger D1, Alagapan S1,2, Fröhlich F1,3,4,5,6
Author Information:
1Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
2Carolina Center for Neurostimulation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
3Department of Neurology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
4Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
5Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
6Neuroscience Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Music Ther.
Date published: 2019 Jun 8
Other: Pages: thz007 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1093/jmt/thz007. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 286


Dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been implicated in psychiatric disorders. Music therapy (MT) has been shown to modulate heart-rate variability (HRV) and salivary stress markers, physiological markers of the ANS and HPA axes, respectively. Given the prominent role of arousal and stress physiology in many psychiatric disorders, MT has the potential to provide therapeutic benefits in psychiatry. Active MT requires patients to engage rhythmically with music; in contrast, passive MT requires patients to listen to music, eliminating the rhythmic movement seen in active MT. Yet, it remains unknown whether active or passive MT differentially modulates arousal and stress physiology. We contrasted the effects of active and passive MT experiences to examine the differential impact of rhythmic movement on the ANS and HPA axes in healthy participants. Individuals (N = 16) participated in a crossover study of 40 min of an active MT and a passive MT intervention. HRV recordings and saliva samples were collected both before and after each intervention. The high-frequency component (HF) and the ratio of low-frequency to high-frequency components (LF/HF) were calculated as cardiac markers of parasympathetic and sympathetic ANS activation, respectively. Saliva samples were analyzed for alpha-amylase and cortisol, markers of the sympathetic ANS and HPA axes, respectively. Active MT and passive MT interventions differentially modulated LF/HF, where active MT decreased LF/HF and passive MT increased LF/HF. These results indicate that MT affects the ANS and suggests that differences in engagement between active MT and passive MT lead to a differential modulation of the sympathetic ANS.

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KEYWORDS: mood; music therapy; quantitative evaluation; research design

PMID: 31175814 DOI: 10.1093/jmt/thz007

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