Heartbeat music calms chimps
- Heartbeat music calms chimps
By Helen Altonn
"Baby Go to Sleep," a recording of heartbeat music, works as well
on rambunctious young chimpanzees as on infants, Joseph Ruszkowski has
The University of Hawaii-Manoa music professor played Terry
Woodford's recording in a recent pilot study to try to reduce
aggression among young male chimpanzees at Honolulu Zoo.
The heartbeat music has "proven statistically significant in
helping very, very small infants fall asleep," including his own
15-month-old child, Ruszkowski said.
The zoo has 10 chimpanzees -- four females and six males, four of
whom are infants or juveniles, he said.
"Since the males are entering adolescence, they are causing bodily
injury and smashing glass," both of which are costly, he said. One
broke a window that will cost about $50,000 to replace, he said.
Brainstorming with Arthur Harvey, UH-Manoa music education
coordinator, Ruszkowski said he developed a study for the chimpanzees
similar to one Harvey conducted for cardiac patients.
But Harvey was able to hook the patients up to monitoring devices,
which he could not do with aggressive male chimpanzees and "keep all
my fingers intact," he said.
Ruszkowski said he played music about 30 minutes every morning for
a week during the chimpanzees' most aggressive period. He played none
in a trial period the next week.
He has not finished analyzing preliminary data, involving 75
variables, but his general observation was the music had a calming
effect on the animals within 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
"They were so relaxed, some chimpanzees were falling asleep. That
is something that never happened before."
Greg Hamilton, primary chimpanzee keeper, said he is continuing to
play Woodford's heartbeat recording or Harvey's "Hawaiian Music with a
Heartbeat" if he feels the animals are riled up in the morning.
Videotapes of Disney movies also are popular, particularly with
8-year-old Nalu, he said.
After the chimps are taken from separate pens and put together in
a group, there "definitely is increased aggression and excitement,"
"It's all about troop dynamics, the socialization of these guys.
We have 8-, 9- and 10- and 13-year-olds. They all have way too much
testosterone. They're aggressive to prove themselves."
He said 10-year-old Kona Kona broke the window, "just feeling like
he's macho man and needs to prove himself."
Using music to mitigate the aggression is a "win-win situation,"
he said. "If something happens, great. If it has no effect, we're
still in the same situation."
Based on preliminary results, Ruszkowski said he probably will do
an expanded study in the summer.
- Hi, Bob, that's interesting, and not surprising.
I have very fond early memories of resting my
head on my mother's chest while being carried
in her arms - it was so fabulous to hear her
heartbeat and her joints/body creak and move.
It was even better when she walked - then I
got that lurching sway as well as the warmth
and sounds. It was a sad day when I got too
big to be carried like that!
I had the honor of being present with a girlfriend
during her labor last week. You often hear that the
fetal heart monitor is distracting during labor, but
we both agreed that in the pre-dawn hours, it was so
lovely and relaxing to listen to that rhythm.
I bet there are many 'new age' / relaxation CDs
available that take advantage of heart sounds to create
relaxing soundscapes. One of my favorites is Anugama's
CD Shamanic Dream - but that could be partly due to
having heard it for a year or so in the context of a
yoga class I was taking at the time. Whenever I hear
it, I fall immediately into a more relaxed state.
I think there are probably other sounds that call a
similar relaxation response - such as the sound of
waves on the beach, or water moving along stones.
One of my favorite CDs that combines water, heartbeats,
and natural sounds (and no instrumental or vocal music or
other such unnecessary distractions) is Dolphin Dreams
by an artist whose name I forget. It is uncannily transportive -
I used to use it when I taught yoga at the YWCA and needed a
sound buffer - sometimes, with the echoes in the room, I would
feel literally overwhelmingly 'at the beach'. ;) By the way,
the musician developed it for pregnant and birthing mothers -
specifically his own wife.