BACKGROUND: Although mechanically ventilated patients experience numerous stressors, they have not been included in music therapy stress reduction and relaxation studies. OBJECTIVE: To examine selected psychophysiologic responses of mechanically ventilated patients to music. METHODS: A two-group experimental design with pretest, posttest, and repeated measures was used. Twenty mechanically ventilated patients were randomized to a music-listening group or a nonmusic (headphones only) group. Physiologic dependent measures--heart rate and rhythm, respiratory rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and airway pressure--were collected at timed intervals. Psychologic data were collected before and after intervention using the Profile of Mood States. RESULTS: Using repeated measures analysis of variance, results for heart rate and respiratory rate over time and over time between groups were significant. Between-group differences were significant for respiratory rate. Significant differences were found via t test for the music group's Profile of Mood States scores. No adverse cardiovascular responses were noted for either group. CONCLUSIONS: Data indicated that music listening decreased heart rate, respiratory rate, and Profile of Mood States scores, indicating relaxation and mood improvement.