hen study participants at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore listened to music that brought them a sense a joy, the inner lining of their blood vessels began to dilate, increasing blood flow to their hearts. But you probably guessed that already.
What you may not realize is that music you don’t like can have the opposite effect. When the volunteers were asked to listen to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy reaction. “We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for vascular health. So the logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect,” says principal investigator Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
In the current study, volunteers were told to stop listening to their favorite tunes for a minimum of two weeks to avoid desensitization. The volunteers also fasted overnight and were given a baseline test to measure the dilation in their blood vessels. Each volunteer was then exposed to music for 30 minutes, during which additional dilation -measurements were taken, with a total of 160 measurements during the six- to eight-month course of the study. The results showed that, compared to baseline, the average upper-arm blood vessel diameter increased by 26 percent after the joyful music phase, while music that caused anxiety narrowed the blood vessels by 6 percent.