Heart rate entrainment to external auditory rhythm: A pilot study



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Heart rate entrainment to external auditory rhythm has numerous applications to clinical music therapy practice, including increasing arousal or inducing relaxation. However, research regarding the ability of heart rate to entrain to external auditory stimuli is contradictory or incomplete, leading to questions regarding this phenomenon. Thus, the current study was conducted to investigate if heart rate can entrain to external auditory stimuli. Eighty-four participants were randomly placed into three testing groups. The baseline heart rate of each participant was measured over a 5 minute period, then, depending on the group, 7%, 10% or 15% was subtracted from the baseline to get the target heart rate. An external auditory stimulus was then played at the target rate for a 15 minute period while heart rate was continuously monitored. Results indicated that there is a possibility of heart rate entrainment at the 7% and 10% level, with statistically significant differences observed between the 7% and 10% groups as well as the 7% and 15% groups. These results align with ideas from previous research and can act as the groundwork for future research exploring heart rate entrainment to other forms of auditory stimuli. The findings from this research could also be used to help music therapists select tempi that are appropriate for relaxation interventions. These findings could also be used for additional research investigating the use of heart rate entrainment as a physiological indicator of consciousness in patients under the disorders of consciousness umbrella.



Rhythm, Entrainment, Heart rate, Synchronization, Music therapy,