Music is especially close to pregnant women

Pregnant women react to music with altered blood pressure

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Particularly susceptible to music: In pregnant women, music triggers much stronger blood pressure changes than non-pregnant women - a surprising result for the scientists, since pregnant women are otherwise insensitive to many sensory impressions. The causes are still unclear, but it could explain how unborn children are already shaped in the womb on music.

Music can calm or stir, it can seduce us to dance or to mourn. It affects not only our soul, but also the body in many ways: blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and even body temperature can change measurably when listening to music. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have studied how strongly pleasant and unpleasant music leads to such changes in pregnant women.

Backwards, dissonant, unpleasant

For their study, the Max Planck researchers played test subjects short music sequences of ten or 30 seconds duration. Not only did they use the original pieces, they also played the passages backwards or built dissonances. As a result, they distorted the originally cheerful instrumental pieces and made listening less pleasant.

At first, it was not surprising how the two groups evaluated the pieces of music: The dissonant backwards played pieces were particularly unpleasant for both the pregnant and the non-pregnant, but the harmonic original version was the most pleasant. However, the physical response was different despite the same assessment.

Surprising change in blood pressure

"Unpleasant music does not increase blood pressure like other stress factors in general, " says Tom Fritz from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. "The body's response is just as dynamic as the music itself." Forward-playing, dissonant music lowered blood pressure particularly strongly, while backward dissonant music resulted in a higher blood pressure after ten seconds and a lower blood pressure after 30 seconds. display

Music chooses: During pregnancy, the female body is particularly sensitive to music.

According to the results, music has a special status among all sensory perceptions for pregnant women: "Every change affected blood pressure differently and many times more than in non-pregnant women, " says Fritz. The researchers had not expected this finding: Earlier studies had shown that pregnant women are comparatively insensitive to sensory stimuli.

Reward by estrogen?

Therefore, pregnant women are particularly close to music. However, the scientists do not yet have an explanation for this. Originally, they suspected the hormone estrogen because it affects the reward system of the brain. This is also responsible for the beautiful sensations of listening to music. But non-pregnant women had the same physical reactions, although they took hormonal contraceptives and thus subject to fluctuations in Estrogen values. "Either the estrogen levels are generally too low for non-pregnant women or other hormones are responsible for the pregnancies", says Fritz.

The researchers suspect that unborn children will be impacted by the strong physical reaction of their mothers in the womb. Already from the 28th week, at the beginning of the last third of the pregnancy, the heart rate changes when the fetus hears a familiar song. From the 35th week changes even the movement pattern.

(Max Planck Society, 26.05.2014 - AKR)