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Music performance anxiety from the challenge and threat perspective: psychophysiological and performance outcomes

English title Music performance anxiety from the challenge and threat perspective: psychophysiological and performance outcomes
Applicant Gomez Patrick
Number 182251
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Policlinique Médicale Universitaire PMU
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022
Approved amount 433'920.00
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Keywords (9)

Performance quality; Salivary dehydroepiandrosterone; Music performance anxiety; University music students; Salivary alpha-amylase; Salivary cortisol; Respiration; Cardiovascular activity; Biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat

Lay Summary (Italian)

L'ansia da prestazione musicale (MPA) è un grosso problema per molti musicisti specialmente giovani studenti universitari con potenziali conseguenze negative per la loro salute e carriera. La conoscenza dei concomitanti psicofisiologici e prestazionali dell'MPA è scarsa.
Lay summary

In questo progetto di ricerca, vogliamo determinare in che misura gli studenti universitari di musica che presentano livelli diversi di MPA da basso ad alto si differenziano nella loro attività psicofisiologica (attività cardiovascolare, respirazione, attività dell’asse ipotalamo-ipofisi-surrene e attività del sistema nervoso autonomo) associata ad un’esibizione privata senza pubblico e ad una esibizione pubblica e nella qualità delle loro esibizioni.

Un centinaio di studenti universitari di musica con livelli di MPA da basso ad alto eseguiranno dei brani musicali in privato e davanti ad un pubblico in due giorni differenti. La loro attività cardiovascolare e respiratoria verrà registrata in modo continuo prima, durante e dopo ogni esibizione. Dei campioni di saliva saranno raccolti prima e dopo le esibizioni. La qualità di ogni esibizione sarà valutata dai musicisti stessi e da esperti. Quest’ultimi valuteranno la qualità delle esibizioni da registrazioni audio.

I risultati di questo progetto hanno il potenziale di migliorare la nostra comprensione teorica dei fattori psicofisiologici legati all’MPA e di contribuire allo sviluppo e all’applicazione di approcci terapeutici basati su un’evidenza scientifica e finalizzati a migliorare la gestione dello stress associato all’esibizione musicale e la qualità della prestazione musicale.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.11.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
112520 Respiratory Responses During Music Performance in High-anxious and Low-anxious Music Students 01.09.2006 Project funding (Div. I-III)
137231 Prolonged performance-related psychophysiological activation in high- and low-anxious music students 01.04.2012 ProDoc


Music performance anxiety (MPA) is a major problem for many musicians with potential health- and career-threatening consequences. Knowledge about the psychophysiological and performance-related concomitants of MPA is scant. In the planned project, we extend prior research in this domain in novel ways and investigate to what extent university music students varying in their level of trait MPA from low to high differ in their performance-related psychophysiological activity and their self- and expert-rated quality of performance. As organizing theoretical framework, we adopt the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat. According to this model, individuals are in a challenge state when evaluations of personal resources in a motivated performance situation are commensurate with or exceed evaluations of demands, whereas they are in a threat state when evaluated resources fall short of evaluated demands. Challenge and threat states are best captured by a cardiovascular index (sum of cardiac output and reverse scored total peripheral resistance), with larger values corresponding to greater challenge. This index has been shown to be positively associated with performance outcomes in cognitive and motor tasks. To what extent respiration, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity and autonomic nervous system activity are organized along the challenge-threat continuum is poorly understood.In the planned project, we will test three sets of hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that trait MPA is associated with greater increase in threat (i.e. greater decrease in cardiovascular challenge-threat index and resources-demands differential) and greater decrease in self-rated and expert-rated performance quality from a private to a public performance, and the cardiovascular challenge-threat index and resources-demands differential are significant mediators of the trait MPA-performance quality relationships. Second, we hypothesize that trait MPA is associated with greater increase in state anxiety, sigh rate, total variability in minute ventilation (MV) and salivary cortisol (sC) from a private to a public performance and greater decrease in partial pressure of end-tidal carbon dioxide (PetCO2), nonrandom variability in MV, salivary dehydroepiandrosterone (sDHEA), anabolic balance (ratio sDHEA/sC) and salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) from a private to a public performance. Third, we hypothesize that larger values of the cardiovascular challenge-threat index and of the resources-demands differential (corresponding to greater challenge/lesser threat) are positively correlated with lower state anxiety, sigh rate, total variability in MV and sC, and higher PetCO2, nonrandom variability in MV, sDHEA, anabolic balance and sAA.To test these hypotheses, 100 university music students reporting levels of trait MPA from low to high will perform self-selected music privately and publicly on two separate days in counterbalanced order. Their cardiovascular and respiratory activity will be recorded continuously before, during and after each performance. Saliva samples will be collected pre- and post-performance. Participants will evaluate their performance-related demands, resources, anxiety and quality. Experts will anonymously rate performance quality from audio recordings.The findings of the planned project have the potential to enhance theory by acquiring a more comprehensive and integrated psychophysiological model of MPA and a better understanding of the processes that underpin individual reactions to music performance situations as well as to guide the development and implementation of theory-led interventions aimed at managing performance-related stress and optimizing performance. By using multimethod approaches incorporating psychophysiology, it may be possible to identify more accurately who is likely to succeed in future performance situations and to assess more accurately intervention progress and success.