Effects of Music on the Recovery of Autonomic and Electrocortical Activity After Stress Induced by Aversive Visual Stimuli

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The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of music and white noise on the recovery of physiological measures after stressful visual stimulation. Twenty-nine participants took part in the experiment. Visual stimulation with slides eliciting disgust was followed by subjectively pleasant music, sad music, and white noise in three consecutive sessions. The spectral power of the frontal and temporal EEG, skin conductance, heart rate, heart period variability, facial capillary blood flow, and respiration rate were recorded and analyzed. Aversive visual stimulation evoked heart rate deceleration, increased high frequency component of heart period variability, increased skin conductance level and skin conductance response frequency, decreased facial blood flow and velocity, decreased temporal slow alpha and increased frontal fast beta power in all three sessions. Both subjectively pleasant and sad music led to the restoration of baseline levels on most parameters; while white noise did not enhance the recovery process. The effects of pleasant music on post-stress recovery, when compared to white noise, were significantly different on heart rate, respiration rate, and peripheral blood flow. Both positive and negative music exerted positive modulatory effects on cardiovascular and respiratory activity, namely increased heart rate, balanced heart period variability, increased vascular blood flow and respiration rate during the post-stress recovery. Data only partially supported the “undoing” hypothesis, which states that positive emotions may facilitate the process of physiological recovery following negative emotions.

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