Answer: MediQuiz #2: The Rhythm of Life

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Yeah, once again, almost everyone got it right. There are few songs that tend to stick in your head as much as stayin’ alive does, and indeed, it is just the right beat to make your CPR go along with. Some people are also of the opinion that Another one bites the dust by Queen is also of a similar beat and should be good enough for the purpose, but, most others agree that the “general tone” of the song (biting the dust) is not what one should have in his head while doing a CPR!

ResearchBlogging.orgSo, a group of innovative researchers over at the University of Illinois College of Medicine decided to design a study to see if this assertion that The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive was indeed the best tune to do CPR to. Here is a summary of their research design:

stayin alive research study design

Click pic to embiggen/download

Here is what they found out:


Obviously, this is one heck of an innovative study, but there still remain several questions that need to be answered first. The medical students and residents did an adequate CPR with the music on and when re-tested 5 weeks later, they still felt comfortable doing the CPR (albeit at a slightly elevated rate) while they hummed “stayin’ alive, uh, huh, uh huh” in their heads. Now the thing is, this study just shows that one can do an adequate CPR despite the song playing in the background, and not because of it.

If the authors could have increased a step where the students and residents did the CPR without the music first, and then with the music, and showed some definite improvement in the performance in the latter scenario (with a before musical intervention and after musical intervention analysis), well, in that case one could say that the Bee Gees had indeed made a valuable contribution to medical science. As of now, I see it simply as a quick fix design that shows that the song may or may not aid in delivering adequate CPR.

However, it goes without saying, that the study authors deserve kudos for thinking up such a cool topic to do a research on, and deserve all the attention just because of their ingenuity. Medical research can sometimes appear to be a stuffy and orthodox discipline and a bit of collateral thinking by people like these bring that welcome change of scene for the eyes.

[However, one of the things the researchers did not take into account was the tone deafness of the individuals in the study. I know several colleagues, who are fantastic physicians, but cannot drum out a rhythm to save their own lives (let alone their patients), so, if there were a few musically disadvantaged subjects in the mix, it would serve to skew the results. And since this was more like a proof-of-concept study, they should have first weeded out the ones who were not up to the beat, so to say!]


Matlock, D., Hafner, J., Bockewitz, E., Barker, L., & Dewar, J. (2008). 83: “Stayin’ Alive”: A Pilot Study to Test the Effectiveness of a Novel Mental Metronome in Maintaining Appropriate Compression Rates in Simulated Cardiac Arrest Scenarios Annals of Emergency Medicine, 52 (4) DOI: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2008.06.149

Skeptic Oslerphile, Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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