Netherlands Heart Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 183–188 | Cite as

Neurocardiological differences between musicians and control subjects

  • J. L. I. Burggraaf
  • T. W. Elffers
  • F. M. Segeth
  • F. M. C. Austie
  • M. B. Plug
  • M. G. J. Gademan
  • A. C. Maan
  • S. Man
  • M. de Muynck
  • T. Soekkha
  • A. Simonsz
  • E. E. van der Wall
  • M. J. Schalij
  • C. A. SwenneEmail author
Original Article – E-LEARNING



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.


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.


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).


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.


Exercise training Music Heart rate Blood pressure Baroreflex 



We thank Mortara Rangoni Europe for providing the ST-Surveyor monitoring system used for recording of the ECG and the continuous noninvasive blood pressure signals for the purpose of later off-line baroreflex evaluation.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Media / Bohn Stafleu van Loghum 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. L. I. Burggraaf
    • 1
  • T. W. Elffers
    • 1
  • F. M. Segeth
    • 1
  • F. M. C. Austie
    • 1
  • M. B. Plug
    • 1
  • M. G. J. Gademan
    • 2
  • A. C. Maan
    • 1
  • S. Man
    • 1
  • M. de Muynck
    • 3
  • T. Soekkha
    • 3
  • A. Simonsz
    • 4
  • E. E. van der Wall
    • 1
  • M. J. Schalij
    • 1
  • C. A. Swenne
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of CardiologyLeiden University Medical CenterLeidenthe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthAcademic Medical CentreAmsterdamthe Netherlands
  3. 3.Academy for Creative and Performing Arts, Faculty of HumanitiesLeiden UniversityLeidenthe Netherlands
  4. 4.Pre-university CollegeLeiden UniversityLeidenthe Netherlands

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