The Effect of Music on the Sympathetic Nervous System

I knew there was a reason why I like music with yoga

Brainstem neurons tend to fire synchronously with tempo: slow music and musical pauses are associated with a decrease in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, and faster music with increases in these parameters (1). A partial explanation is that the brainstem interprets music as signals related to survival, mimics sounds in nature, such as the alarm calls of many species or maternal vocalizations, purring and cooing (1).

Another function of music is to provide competing stimuli for other peripheral nerve impulses such as those related to pain. Pain impulses travel from the site of an injury via the spinal cord to the brain and if neural gates are closed, then the perception of the pain may not be as great. One of these factors in closing gates may be descending messages from the brain through the spinal cord, including the effects of brain processes resulting from listening to music, as a consequence fewer pain impulses reaching our conscious awareness (2).

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