Purpose Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron-emission tomography suggest that many regions of the brain are activated by such complex muscle activity. Although these studies demonstrated relative increases in blood flow in some brain regions with increased neural activity, whether or not the absolute value of cerebral blood flow increases has yet to be elucidated. It also remains unknown whether playing musical instruments affects cerebral blood flow. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of playing a musical instrument on blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery (MCAv) by using Doppler ultrasound to measure absolute values of arterial flow velocity. Methods Thirteen musicians performed three pieces of music with different levels of difficulty: play for the first time (FS), music in practice (PR) and already mastered (MS) on either piano or violin. MCAv was recorded continuously from 10 min before until 10 min after playing. Associations between the cerebral blood flow response and blood pressure and gas-exchange variables were examined. Results PR and MS significantly increased the MCAv. The blood pressure increased significantly in performances of all difficulty levels except for MS. There were no significant changes in exhaled gas variables during the performance. Conclusion These findings suggest that playing a musical instrument increases MCAv, and that this change is influenced by the difficulty of the performance.
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