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Recreational music-making alters gene expression pathways in patients with coronary heart disease

Barry Bittman, Daniel T. Croft Jr., Jeannie Brinker, Ryan van Laar, Marina N. Vernalis, Darrell L. Ellsworth

Med Sci Monit 2013; 19:139-147

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.883807

Available online:

Published: 2013-02-25

Background: Psychosocial stress profoundly impacts long-term cardiovascular health through adverse effects on sympathetic nervous system activity, endothelial dysfunction, and atherosclerotic development. Recreational Music Making (RMM) is a unique stress amelioration strategy encompassing group music-based activities that has great therapeutic potential for treating patients with stress-related cardiovascular disease.
Material and Methods: Participants (n=34) with a history of ischemic heart disease were subjected to an acute time-limited stressor, then randomized to RMM or quiet reading for one hour. Peripheral blood gene expression using GeneChip® Human Genome U133A 2.0 arrays was assessed at baseline, following stress, and after the relaxation session.
Results: Full gene set enrichment analysis identified 16 molecular pathways differentially regulated (P<0.005) during stress that function in immune response, cell mobility, and transcription. During relaxation, two pathways showed a significant change in expression in the control group, while 12 pathways governing immune function and gene expression were modulated among RMM participants. Only 13% (2/16) of pathways showed differential expression during stress and relaxation.
Conclusions: Human stress and relaxation responses may be controlled by different molecular pathways. Relaxation through active engagement in Recreational Music Making may be more effective than quiet reading at altering gene expression and thus more clinically useful for stress amelioration.

Keywords: Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Music - psychology, Gene Expression Regulation, Coronary Artery Disease - psychology, Cluster Analysis, Case-Control Studies, Aged, 80 and over, Adult, Recreation - psychology, Relaxation, Signal Transduction - genetics, Stress, Psychological - genetics