Monday, July 15, 2013

Hearts Beat As One


A study from the University of Gothenburg found that choir members' hearts synchronized while singing in unison.
A study from the University of Gothenburg found that choir
members' hearts synchronized while singing in unison.
Image: Shutterstock

Were you ever in choir? I was, and it’s an experience I’ll always hold near and dear to my soul. The experience of singing in harmony and unison with so many other people is incredibly powerful, and completely impossible to fully explain.

A recent NPR article talked about an interesting finding out of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden: when choirs sing as one, their hearts beat as one as well. The researchers connected pulse monitors to high school choir members’ ears and found that, though the heart rates started out jumbled, they quickly synchronized and slowed.

“When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breating,” Bjorn Vickhoff, musicologist and project lead said, according to NPR. “You exhale on the phrases and breathe in between the phrases. When you exhale, the heart slows down.”

The internal physiological reaction mirrors the feeling of togetherness that singing creates.
The internal physiological reaction mirrors the feeling of
togetherness that singing creates.
Image: Shutterstock
Like any study, this one certainly isn’t all-conclusive. Most likely, not all singers experience this, but it really is an interesting concept. Singing in a group setting is powerful and gives a strong feeling of solidarity, of unity. The fact that at least some singers’ bodies make physiological changes to match that is just, well, neat.

“It’s a beautiful way to feel. You are not alone but with others who feel the same way,” Vickhoff said.

And isn’t that a great feeling, to not feel alone? To feel like a part of something larger than just you?

As a musicologist and researcher, Vickhoff’s work is far from over. He plans to continue working on a project called Body Score, which will study the physical and neurological responses our body has to music. 
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