Two hearts beat as one! People subconsciously synchronise their heart rates while listening to stories, based on the narrative, study finds

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  • Experts led by the Paris Brain Institute drive people’s stories or instructions
  • The team monitored heart and breathing rates as soon as they listened to the audio.
  • They found that subjects tended to synchronize their heart rate with the story.
  • The same thing happened even when there was no emotional component to the audio.
  • However, the more distracted people were, the less synchronized they were

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When people listen to stories, they subconsciously synchronize their heart rates with the narrative – and therefore, each other – a study has demonstrated.

This finding builds on previous studies that found that people often sync bodily functions, such as heartbeat or breathing, during a shared experience.

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Experts led by the Paris Brain Institute found that a similar phenomenon occurs when people are listening to a story on their own, as long as they pay attention.

The discovery could help develop a new and easily administered hospital test to determine a patient’s level of consciousness.

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When people listen to stories, they subconsciously synchronize their heart rates with the narrative – and therefore, each other – a study has demonstrated.

explain your heart rate

Your heart rate is the number of beats per minute (bpm) of your heart.

A normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 bpm when you are resting.

However, it depends on when it is measured and what you were doing just before the reading.

Your target heart rate (THR) is between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate.

You should aim to exercise with your heart rate between these two figures.

Your target heart rate will ensure that you increase your fitness and strength safely.

Source: British Heart Foundation

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“There is a lot of literature demonstrating that people synchronize their physiology with each other,” said paper author and biomedical engineer Lucas Parra, of the City College of New York.

However, he explained, usually ‘the premise is that you are interacting in some way and are physically in the same place.’

“What we found is that the phenomenon is very broad, and that people’s heart rates will have similar fluctuations just by following a story and processing stimuli,” he said.

‘It’s the cognitive function that drives your heart rate up or down.’

“What is important is that the listener is paying attention to the actions in the story,” said Jacobo Sitt, fellow paper author and neuroscientist at the Paris Brain Institute.

‘It’s not about emotions, but about staying busy and attentive and thinking about what will happen next. Your heart responds to those signals from the brain.’

In their study, the team conducted a series of four experiments that involved all participants accompanying an audio story or video while their heart rates were measured using an electrocardiogram.

For the first test, 27 adults listened to the opening 16-minute excerpt from Jules Verne’s 1870 science fiction adventure, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.

The researchers noted in their paper, ‘The text is relatively mysterious because it describes a report of an unknown monster that destroyed ships.

Based on electrocardiogram readings, the team found that subjects’ heart rates changed depending on what was happening in the narrative, with the same point in the story experiencing the greatest increase and decrease in heart rate.

The next experiment consisted of five instructional videos which, unlike the audiobook excerpt, had no inherent emotional variation, allowing the team to show that emotional association with the story played no role in synchronization.

This finding builds on previous studies that found that people often sync bodily functions, such as heartbeat or breathing, during a shared experience.  Experts from the Paris Brain Institute found that a similar phenomenon occurs even when people are listening to a story on their own – as long as they pay attention.

This finding builds on previous studies that found that people often sync bodily functions, such as heartbeat or breathing, during a shared experience. Experts from the Paris Brain Institute found that a similar phenomenon occurs even when people are listening to a story on their own – as long as they pay attention.

While playing the clip to 27 students from the City College of New York, the researchers once again found that the subjects’ heart rates showed similar fluctuations as they watched the video.

The clip was played again, but this time the participants were asked to watch the video, counting backwards from an initial number of between 800-1,000 over seven steps.

This resulted in a decrease in the synchrony between heart rate and video in all subjects, indicating that attention should play an important role.

Building on this, the third trial asked 21 adults to recall facts from a series of stories from young children, some of which they were allowed to listen to attentively and some of which were distracted by the researchers. Given.

The team found that the more synchronized the participants’ heartbeats were with the narrative, the more likely they were to be able to remember details correctly.

This, the researchers said, shows that changes in heart rate are indicative of conscious processing of the narrative.

This discovery could help develop a new and easy-to-administer hospital test to determine a patient's level of consciousness.  Pictured: A hospital patient in a coma

This discovery could help develop a new and easy-to-administer hospital test to determine a patient’s level of consciousness. Pictured: A hospital patient in a coma

In their final experiment, the researchers recruited 19 patients suffering from disorders of consciousness, such as being in a coma, or a persistent vegetative state, and compared them with 24 healthy control subjects.

As in the previous trial, each participant was told a children’s audio story.

The team found that, as predicted, patients had lower rates of synchronization than healthy subjects, who were able to follow through with the narrative better, but also that some patients showed higher levels of synchronization. , some proceeded to regain consciousness for the next six months.

Based on the findings, the researchers propose that such a test could be used to more easily assess a patient’s condition.

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