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Classical music can synchronize the heartbeats of strangers

A team of scientists led by the University of Bern in Switzerland has found that attending a classical music concert can lead to synchronicity among the audience members in various physiological ways. 

The heartbeats of attendees can align, and they might even find themselves breathing in harmony or making similar movements in their seating.

Focus of the study

The study involved 132 participants in Berlin, ranging from 18 to 85 years of age. The researchers witnessed this synchronization as the audience listened to compositions from renowned artists such as Beethoven, Brahms, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s contemporary composer, Brett Dean. 

Monitoring tools showed that the breathing rates of these individuals, captured using sensor-equipped belts, aligned most consistently with the musical performance. Their heartbeats and subtle changes in fingertip sweat, indicating excitement, followed suit. 

Synchronized heart rhythms 

Interestingly, those who felt ‘inspired’ or were ‘emotionally moved’ by Brahms and Dean’s pieces showed a higher tendency for synchronized heart rhythms.

“It is fascinating that people at a concert, who do not know each other and do not even speak to each other, seem to have a shared experience, based on measurements like their heart rate,” said lead author Wolfgang Tschacher, a psychologist at Bern. 

“When we see synchrony, we know people are really engaged in the music, as they are reacting to it emotionally in the same way.”

Upon further investigation, the researchers discovered that participants who prioritized socializing and interaction with companions during the concert demonstrated less physiological alignment with the music than others. 

Personality traits

Additionally, extroverted and neural traits seemed to correlate with decreased synchronization, specifically in their fingertip sweat. 

On the other hand, those characterized as agreeable and open to novel experiences exhibited a heightened response to the melodies, mirroring the reactions of their fellow attendees.

Subconscious immersion 

Even under subdued lighting and separated seating, audience members managed to exhibit similar reactions, alluding to a shared, subconscious immersion in the music. The term “synchronization” in this context implies a statistically significant coordination, rather than perfect simultaneity. 

Interestingly, Beethoven’s Op. 104 in C minor generated less of this coordinated response compared to Brahms’ Op. 111 in G Major and Dean’s Epitaphs. Past studies have also highlighted that not only audience members but musicians and conductors too can exhibit synchronized physical reactions during performances.

The study is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Brain responses to classical music 

Listening to classical music can elicit various responses in the brain, which may include relaxation, improvement in mood, and stimulation of cognitive functions. 


Classical music often leads to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and relaxation. Slow tempo and soft dynamics can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormone levels.

Cognitive function

Some research suggests that listening to classical music, like that of Mozart, may temporarily improve spatial-temporal abilities and memory in listeners. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “Mozart Effect.”

Sleep quality

The soothing quality of classical music can help with insomnia and improve overall sleep quality in some individuals.

Brain regions 

Different aspects of music (such as rhythm, melody, and harmony) can engage various areas in the brain, including the auditory cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum.

Emotional responses

Classical music can evoke strong emotions and activate areas of the brain associated with emotional processing, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.

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