A method for continuously assessing the autonomic response to music-induced emotions through HRV analysis

  • Michele Orini
  • Raquel Bailón
  • Ronny Enk
  • Stefan Koelsch
  • Luca Mainardi
  • Pablo Laguna
Original Article


Interest in therapeutic applications of music has recently increased, as well as the effort to understand the relationship between music features and physiological patterns. In this study, we present a methodology for characterizing music-induced effects on the dynamics of the heart rate modulation. It consists of three steps: (i) the smoothed pseudo Wigner-Ville distribution is performed to obtain a time–frequency representation of HRV; (ii) a parametric decomposition is used to robustly estimate the time-course of spectral parameters; and (iii) statistical population analysis is used to continuously assess whether different acoustic stimuli provoke different dynamic responses. Seventy-five healthy subjects were repetitively exposed to pleasant music, sequences of Shepard tones with the same tempo as the pleasant music and unpleasant sounds overlaid with the same sequences of Shepard tones. Results show that the modification of HRV parameters are characterized by an early fast transient phase (15–20 s), followed by an almost stationary period. All kinds of stimuli provoked significant changes compared to the resting condition, while during listening to pleasant music the heart and respiratory rates were higher (for more than 80% of the duration of the stimuli, p < 10−5) and the power of the HF modulation was lower (for more than 70% of the duration of the stimuli, p < 0.05) than during listening to unpleasant stimuli.


Heart rate Heart rate variability (HRV) Music Time–frequency analysis Wigner-Ville distribution 



This work was supported in part by the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología, FEDER, under Project TEC2007-68076-C02-02/TCM and by the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red (CIBER) de Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina, Feder, through Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII).


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Copyright information

© International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Orini
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Raquel Bailón
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ronny Enk
    • 4
    • 5
  • Stefan Koelsch
    • 4
    • 6
  • Luca Mainardi
    • 3
  • Pablo Laguna
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Communication Technology Group, Aragón Institute of Engineering ResearchUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.CIBER de Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBER-BBN)ZaragozaSpain
  3. 3.Department of BioengineeringPolitecnico di MilanoMilanoItaly
  4. 4.Languages of Emotion, Cluster of Excellence der Freien Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesLeipzigGermany
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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