Scientific Tools for Music Therapy Research -2

by - Dr. T V Sairam

HRV (Heart rate variability) - is a physiological phenomenon where the time interval between heart beats varies. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. Other terms used to describe this method are: "cycle length variability", "RR variability" (where R is a point corresponding to the peak of the QRS complex of the ECG wave; and RR is the interval between successive Rs), and "heart period variability".

In a recent experiment (2004) on heart rate variability with the repetitive exposure to music, conducted by the Japanese experimenters, Makoto Iwanga et al used heart rate variability to assess activation of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The study aimed to examine heart rate variability with repetitive exposure to sedative or excitative music. The participants were 13 undergraduate or graduate students who were each exposed to three conditions sedative music (SM), excitative music (EM), and no music (NM) on different days. Each participant underwent four sessions of one condition in a day. Sedative music and no music each induced both high relaxation and low tension subjectively. However, excitative music decreased perceived tension and increased perceived relaxation as the number of sessions increased. The low-frequency (LF) component of heart rate variability (HRV) and the LF/HF (high-frequency) ratio increased during SM and EM sessions but decreased during NM sessions. The HF component of HRV during SM was higher than that during EM but the same as that during NM. These findings suggested that excitative music decreased the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

PPG (Photoplethysmogram)- is an optically obtained plethysmogram, a volumetric measurement of an organ. A PPG is often obtained by using a pulse oximeter which illuminates the skin and measures changes in light absorption (Shelley and Shelley, 2001). A conventional pulse oximeter monitors the perfusion of blood to the dermis and subcutaneous tissue of the skin. With each cardiac cycle the heart pumps blood to the periphery. Even though this pressure pulse is somewhat damped by the time it reaches the skin, it is enough to distend the arteries and arterioles in the subcutaneous tissue. If the pulse oximeter is attached without compressing the skin, a pressure pulse can also be seen from the venous plexus, as a small secondary peak.

The change in volume caused by the pressure pulse is detected by illuminating the skin with the light from a light-emitting diode (LED) and then measuring the amount of light either transmitted or reflected to a photodiode. Each cardiac cycle appears as a peak, as seen in the figure. Because blood flow to the skin can be modulated by multiple other physiological systems, the PPG can also be used to monitor breathing, hypovolemia, and other circulatory conditions (Reisner, et al., 2008). Additionally, the shape of the PPG waveform differs from subject to subject, and varies with the location and manner in which the pulse oximeter is attached.

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