Heart Rate Sonification:
A New Approach to Cardiopulmonary Diagnosis

Mark
Ballora
    Ary L.
Goldberger
    Bruce
Pennycook
    Plamen Ch.
Ivanov
    Leon
Glass
School
of
Music
    Beth Israel
Deaconess
Medical Center
    Vice Principal
Information Systems
& Technology
    Center for
Polymer Studies
and Dept.
of Physics
    Department
of
Physiology
Pennsylvania
State
University
    Harvard
Medical School
    McGill
University
    Boston
University
    McGill
University

Ever since 1819, when Theophile Laennec first put a block of wood to a patient's chest to listen to her heartbeat, physicians have relied on auscultation to help diagnose cardiopulmonary disorders.

Here we propose a novel diagnostic method based in music technology. Digital music software is employed to transform the sequence of intervals between consecutive heartbeats into an electroacoustic soundtrack. The results show promise as a diagnostic tool and also provide the basis of an interesting musical soundscape.

This site details the methods used to sonify the heart rate variability time series. Audio examples are provided that correspond to four cardiac states: healthy, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and obstructive sleep apnea. The software used to create the sonifications may be downloaded so that users may experiment with different "mixes" of sound parameters.

Although Laennec was not the first to listen to the human heart, his signal contribution was learning how to interpret its sounds in terms of underlying pathology. Computer methods now enable us to generate new ways of listening to the heart, but we are still at the early stages of learning how to interpret the resulting sonifications.

Financial support was contributed by the Natural Sciences Engineering and Research Council, the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources (P41RR13622), the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Aging (AG08812).

See also:

Introduction
 
Overview
 
Description of Software
 
Audio Examples
 
Musical Application
 
References

Correspondence should be addressed to M.B. (e-mail: ballora@psu.edu ).