, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 183-188
Date: 03 Jan 2013

Neurocardiological differences between musicians and control subjects

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Abstract

Background

Exercise training is beneficial in health and disease. Part of the training effect materialises in the brainstem due to the exercise-associated somatosensory nerve traffic. Because active music making also involves somatosensory nerve traffic, we hypothesised that this will have training effects resembling those of physical exercise.

Methods

We compared two groups of healthy, young subjects between 18 and 30 years: 25 music students (13/12 male/female, group M) and 28 controls (12/16 male/female, group C), peers, who were non-musicians. Measurement sessions to determine resting heart rate, resting blood pressure and baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) were held during morning hours.

Results

Groups M and C did not differ significantly in age (21.4 ± 3.0 vs 21.2 ± 3.1 years), height (1.79 ± 0.11 vs 1.77 ± 0.10 m), weight (68.0 ± 9.1 vs 66.8 ± 10.4 kg), body mass index (21.2 ± 2.5 vs 21.3 ± 2.4 kg∙m−2) and physical exercise volume (39.3 ± 38.8 vs 36.6 ± 23.6 metabolic equivalent hours/week). Group M practised music daily for 1.8 ± 0.7 h. In group M heart rate (65.1 ± 10.6 vs 68.8 ± 8.3 beats/min, trend P =0.08), systolic blood pressure (114.2 ± 8.7 vs 120.3 ± 10.0 mmHg, P = 0.01), diastolic blood pressure (65.0 ± 6.1 vs 71.0 ± 6.2 mmHg, P < 0.01) and mean blood pressure (83.7 ± 6.4 vs 89.4 ± 7.1, P < 0.01) were lower than in group C. BRS in groups M and C was 12.9 ± 6.7 and 11.3 ± 5.8 ms/mmHg, respectively (P = 0.17).

Conclusions

The results of our study suggest that active music making has training effects resembling those of physical exercise training. Our study opens a new perspective, in which active music making, additionally to being an artistic activity, renders concrete health benefits for the musician.

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