How Does Music Translate Itself Biologically in a Public Health Context?

  • Töres TheorellEmail author


This chapter illustrates how researchers reflect on links between music and public health. Music enters the brain in a different way than do conversations based on words, and since the brain tends to react more directly and rapidly to music, this may sometimes create a basis for surprise and unexpected reorientation in life.

Specific emotions induced by different types of music experiences correspond to various combinations of psychophysiological states (dilated or constricted arteries, increased or decreased variation in heart rate, accelerated or decelerated pulse, elevated or lowered blood pressure, increased or decreased sweating, etc.). In addition, the body adapts its hormones and its immune system to the musical experiences.

Experiments with school children have shown that musical collective experiences (having fun with music together and making pupils collaborate with one another) can contribute to an improved calmer social environment possibly favouring, for instance, learning at school.

Modern recording techniques have made it possible to record immediate online physiology during musical experiences, for instance, in the gastrointestinal system, in breathing patterns and in the arteries as well as physiological states during intense experiences such as flow and goose skin.

Music in the gym, during choir singing and in clinical applications such as choir singing for patients with chronic respiratory disease is discussed in the chapter. One conclusion is that there is extensive knowledge about immediate reactions during music experiences but that long-term biological consequences of repeated musical experiences (such as choir singing or instrument playing in groups once a week for years) have been understudied although such research is beginning to emerge.


Psychophysiology Oxytocin Cortisol Testosterone Heart rate variability Emotion Flow Music 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stress Research InstituteStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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