Will The Magic Flute Help you get an “A”?

For years, we’ve heard about brain food, but have you ever heard about brain music? Many neurobiologists claim that there is such thing, and Mozart’s music is the origin of this phenomenon. In fact, these scientists assert that listening to Mozart has the ability to increase brainpower and make people smarter. This idea has become so popular that it has acquired a name: “The Mozart Effect.” A blogger who goes by the name of “keefa_banidica” stated that his 9-day old infant was more alert and perceptive than others his age due to consistent playing of Mozart on his pregnant wife’s stomach. The idea of enhancing your intelligence by listening to Mozart’s music is very appealing. Can listening to Mozart really make you smarter?

The answer is no. To date, there is no scientific data that proves that listening to Mozart (or any other classical music) makes anyone smarter. However there are many theories as to why we shouldn’t dismiss “The Mozart Effect”. The earliest traces of research began in the 1950s when Alfred Tomatis, an ear, nose and throat doctor stated that Mozart’s music was successful in helping patients with auditory and speech disorders by improving the continuous process of listening. In the 1990s, 36 students partook in a study conducted at the University of California at Irvine by Dr. Gordon shaw, where they had to listen to a 10 minute Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. Dr. Shaw reported that the IQs of the subjects increased by an average of eight points. At this point, “The Mozart Effect” was an official phenomenon and the name was trademarked by the musician Dan Campbell. He even created a line of books and CDs based on the concept and the states of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee set aside hundreds of thousands of state dollars for classical music for babies and young children. Dr. Frances Rauscher, a researcher with Dr. Shaw’s study stated that the research team never asserted that Mozart made anyone smarter, but listening to his music increased the performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks (which refers to one’s capacity to visualize spacial patterns used in fields such as science, math, architecture, engineering, visual arts, games, etc.). Also, no other scientist has been able to replicate the original results. Dr. Rauscher said that the money spent by Georgia, Florida and Tennessee might be better spent on musical programs since there is some proof that learning an instrument ameliorates concentration, self-confidence and coordination.

Glenn Schellenberg, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto affirms  that there is no such thing as “The Mozart Effect.” There are many experiences aside from listening to classical music that may improve cognition. Most people find Mozart’s music pleasant to listen to. Given the pleasant sensation one associates with Mozart’s music, dopamine levels might increase in the brain, which improves cognition. Contrary to many beliefs, it isn’t the structure of the music that causes the effect but rather the change in the listener is mood. For example, The Huffington Post stated “Mozart’s compositions  — which follow a 60 bpm pattern — have been shown to activate both the right and left sides of the brain in listeners. Stimulation of both sides is linked with increased recall, and so listening while studying can help increase the likelihood that you will retain relevant information.”  Therefore, one doesn’t necessarily “get smarter” when listening to Mozart, but instead they are predisposed to retaining more information thanks to the 60 bpm pattern found in Mozart’s compositions.

While listening to Mozart might not necessarily increase your IQ score, it has been proven that it will make it easier for you to learn more effectively by enhancing your mood and activating both the right and left sides of the brain. The blogger who was referred to earlier has a fascinating theory but unfortunately, there is no hard evidence to support his claim. While Mozart’s music can entertain us, relax us and move us, it falls short of making us smarter.

By Léa Lotey-Goodman


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