The human body is a musical organism. Before we are even born, we are engulfed in sound. Around six weeks in the womb, our heartbeats are already detectable by our mothers awaiting our arrival via ultrasound. Simultaneously, we can hear and feel the voice and heartbeat of our mother while in the womb. The heartbeat is one of the most notably musical parts of our human bodies. This article will cover the connections between sound and the heart.
The Role of The Heart in the Human Body
The heart is one of the primary organs in the human body. It is at the center of the circulatory system and is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. As the heart beats, the blood sends oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products. (NHS)
Sounds of The Heart
Our heartbeat is a sound that begins before we are born into this world and continues until our last breath. According to a journal from the University of London, the sounds of our hearts are created from the movement of blood flowing through our heart chambers. The movement creates vibrations that translate to audible sounds that create the sounds of our heartbeat.
“Heart sounds are created from blood flowing through the heart chambers as the cardiac valves open and close during the cardiac cycle. Vibrations of these structures from the blood flow create audible sounds — the more turbulent the blood flow, the more vibrations that get created.” (Physiology, Heart Sounds, Sean Dornbush & Andre E. Turnquest)
Ultimately, our heartbeats are the contraction of our heart muscles to pump blood throughout the body, and the heart’s electrical system is responsible for the rate of the heartbeat. Electrical signals cause the muscles to contract, and it is this contraction that makes the heartbeat.
“The contraction of the atria and ventricles makes a heartbeat. When your heart beats, it makes a “lub-DUB” sound. You may have heard this if you listened with a stethoscope or with your ear on someone’s chest.
After your atria pump blood into the ventricles, the valves between the atria and ventricles close to prevent backflow. The “lub” is the sound of these valves closing. After your ventricles contract to pump blood away from the heart, the aortic and pulmonary valves close and make the “dub” sound.” (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute)
Sound + The Heart
Our hearts are influenced by the music we listen to as well as the sounds we come across on a daily basis. In a previous article, we shared some of the ways that noise (i.e., traffic noise, aircraft, etc.) can be harmful to the heart. However, there are many sounds that can have a positive influence on the heart as well. According to Harvard Health, listening to music can alter brain chemistry and positively influence the cardiovascular system. This can manifest as improvement of blood vessel function by relaxing arteries, helping heart rate and blood pressure levels to return to baseline more quickly after physical exertion, easing anxiety in heart attack survivors, and help people recovering from heart surgery to feel less pain and anxiety (and possibly sleep better).
According to an article in Stanford Medical Magazine, doctors are working on using acoustic sound to assist in the organization of heart cells. The article states that heart cells are the most densely packed cells in the human body, where about 100 million fit into a space the size of a sugar cube. The densely crammed cells communicate with one another and in turn, beat as one unified lump. The dense packing of the cells creates a tricky situation for tissue engineers, as packing the cells too tightly can block certain cells from receiving proper nutrients, and packing them too loosely can make it difficult for them to organize into a unified beat.
Cardiologist Sean Wu, MD, PhD and Utkan Demirci, PhD, an acoustic bioengineer and professor of radiology, have worked together to discover a way in which acoustics could be used to pack the cells densely while still being able to tune their organization. The results of their findings have been fascinating…
“Utkan Demirci and Sean Wu use acoustics to manipulate heart cells into intricate patterns. A simple change in frequency and amplitude puts the cells in motion, guides them to a new position and holds them in place.”
Using acoustics to manipulate the organization of heart cells generates very intricate and organized patterns that looks much like cymatics. This technology will be useful for various conditions including heart patches for patients with weak cardiac walls or those who have damage from a heart attack.
The connections between sound and the heart continue to be revealed in many ways. As more research becomes available we will continue to shine a light on this fascinating topic.
Do you have experience with sound + the heart? Let us know @healthandbass :)