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ABSTRACT

AVibroacoustic and vibrotactile devices that transmit sound as vibration to the body have developed over
the last 15 years, and have been reported anecdotally to produce relaxation and reductions in muscle
tone, blood pressure and heart rate. Vibroacoustic (VA) therapy is used in clinical treatment and involves a
stimulus that is a combination of sedative music and pulsed, sinusoidal low frequency tones between 20Hz
and 70Hz, played through a bed or chair containing large speakers. There is limited evidence to support
the efficacy of VA therapy in the clinical situations in which it is used. The studies in this thesis investigated
the clinical effect of VA therapy, and the effect of elements of the stimulus on non-clinical subjects.
A study on 10 multiply handicapped adults with high muscle tone and spasm compared the effect of eight
trials of VA therapy with a similar number of trials of relaxing music. A significantly greater range of
movement was recorded after VA therapy than relaxing music. No significant difference was found in
changes in blood pressure or heart rate.
Comparing the effect of VA therapy with music and movement-based physiotherapy (MMBP) and relaxing
music alone on 27 subjects with high muscle tone and spasticity revealed no significant difference in range
of movement between VA therapy and MMBP, but a significant difference comparing the combined results
of MMBP and VA therapy with relaxing music alone. Additional trials found significant differences between
VA therapy and music alone.
A study on non-clinical subjects (n=39), and a second study (n=52) measured perceived location of bodily
vibrations in response to sinusoidal tones between 20Hz and 70Hz through a VA bed. Reports indicated
some that frequencies caused sensations of resonant vibration consistently in the same places in the
body.
A second study on non-clinical subjects (n=60) in three groups found that VA therapy had a significantly
greater effect in reducing arousal when compared with relaxing music, and a control, and heart rate when
VA therapy was compared with a control. No significant differences were found between the groups in
changes in blood pressure.
A third study (n=60) found no significant differences between four groups when evaluating the effect of
varying rate of amplitude modulation of a 40Hz sinusoidal tone and a constant tone.
These studies have clarified the efficacy of VA therapy as an intervention for clinical populations, and the
effect of the stimulus on normal subjects. Questions remain about the nature of the stimulus that is used,
and its effect on behaviour.