We’ve blogged before about the innate ability of the human body to respond to external rhythms. For example, recent studies have found that the heartbeats of a mother and baby will synchronise with one another when they interact closely.
We’ve also seen how the tempo of a song can naturally alter our breathing rate and heart rate.
This week we’re sharing an interesting piece of work conducted by researchers in Sweden who found that not only can choir singers harmonise their voices, they can also synchronise their heartbeats.
The team monitored the heart rates of singers and found that as the members sang in unison, their pulses began to speed up and slow down at the same rate.
Dr Bjorn Vickhoff, from the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University, said:
"The pulse goes down when you exhale and when you inhale it goes up.
"So when you are singing, you are singing on the air when you are exhaling so the heart rate would go down. And between the phrases you have to inhale and the pulse will go up.
"If this is so then heart rate would follow the structure of the song or the phrases, and this is what we measured and this is what we confirmed."
They found that the more structured the songs, the more the singers' heart rates increased or decreased together.
Slow chants produced the most synchrony but it was also found that choral singing had the overall effect of slowing the heart rate.
Many people choose to sing in choirs as a method of relaxation. Interestingly, the paper describes how coupling the heart rate to respiration produces a biologically soothing effect. They also note an earlier study which found that this coupling is beneficial to circulation and improves wellbeing.
Just another example of how incredible the human body is!