Objectives and Methods
Self-report studies have shown an association between music performance anxiety (MPA) and hyperventilation complaints. However, hyperventilation was never assessed physiologically in MPA. This study investigated the self-reported affective experience, self-reported physiological symptoms, and cardiorespiratory variables including partial pressure of end-tidal CO2 (PETCO2), which is an indicator for hyperventilation, in 67 music students before a private and a public performance. The response coherence between these response domains was also investigated.
From the private to the public session, the intensity of all self-report variables increased (all p values < .001). As predicted, the higher the musician’s usual MPA level, the larger were these increases (p values < .10). With the exception of PETCO2, the main cardiorespiratory variables also increased from the private to the public session (p values < .05). These increases were not modulated by the usual MPA level (p values > .10). PETCO2 showed a unique response pattern reflected by an MPA-by-session interaction (p < .01): it increased from the private to the public session for musicians with low MPA levels and decreased for musicians with high MPA levels. Self-reported physiological symptoms were related to the self-reported affective experience (p values < .05) rather than to physiological measures (p values > .17).
These findings show for the first time how respiration is stimulated before a public performance in music students with different MPA levels. The hypothesis of a hyperventilation tendency in high-performance-anxious musicians is supported. The response coherence between physiological symptoms and physiological activation is weak.