The Mozart Effect
Does classical music really help you study better? Many recent research studies show that music idoes in fact improve cognitive thinking. In 1993, researchers at the University of California at Irvine discovered the so-called Mozart Effect – that college students “who listened to ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major K448 before taking an IQ test scored nine points higher” than when they had sat in silence or listened to relaxation tapes. Other studies have also indicated that it doesn’t matter the artist; people retain information better if they hear classical or baroque music while studying.
The most easily influenced stage of human life is early childhood, therefore it is encouraged that children listen to classical music. The researchers at Irvine recently found that preschoolers who had received eight months of music lessons scored “eighty percent higher on object-assembly tasks” than did other children who received no musical training. It was concluded that students who listened to music had high a greater ability to think abstractly and to visualize. These tasks are necessary to understand difficult theorems and equations in math and engineering. German scientists discovered an amazing difference in musicians who have the ability to recognize notes by ear and who began studying music before the age of seven. The plenum temporal, which is the area on the brain’s left side that processes sound signals, mostly language, is three times the average size. The age of the musician matters because the brain generally stops growing after age 10.
Besides being beneficial for young children, music is useful to many adolescents, especially to those with learning problems. Exposing music constantly to children with severe learning deficiencies has been known to show positive results. A study was done by the researchers at Irvine on a seven-year-old girl with an autistic condition, which caused her to use gestures and occasional words instead of full sentences. The young girl’s speaking ability “improved remarkably” after she had lessons in a class that combined sounds from a piano with dialect.
College students can also benefit from classical music. To test this, college students were exposed to three different types of music and were given standard reasoning tests, each for ten minutes. The research showed that the scores of the students improved after listening to the music of Mozart. The scientists at Irvine believe they improved because of the structure of Mozart’s music, which “aided the students’ cognitive processing” .
The human mind is constantly processing and picking up information. Music is an ordered and predictable sequence of sounds. When the brain hears music, it tries to decode it. In decoding those symbols and patterns, it sets up “neural highways, or synapses” , to receive and examine data. These pathways then can be used for remembering other symbol-oriented information, such as language and math. Like a muscle, the brain becomes stronger the more it is worked, and these workouts are achieved by listening to classical music. Mozart’s music is exceptionally difficult to decode, therefore the brain must work harder, thus making one smarter.
Not only does music affect thought, but it also benefits health. Students usually study in quiet, relaxed surroundings while listening to serene music. Classical music can steady a fast heartbeat and a slower heartbeat induces relaxation. Exercise plays a critical role in maintaining good health, and relaxing music can be favorable to this. Music reduces muscle tension, resulting in a better work out. Scientists performed controlled studies using adult males who were around twenty-five years old. Blood samples were taken before and after treadmill running. The experiment found that with the presence of music, “heart rate, blood pressure, and lactate secretion in the brain were significantly lower” . The results proved that music improves workouts and reduces stress.
The idea of musical conditioning is not a new one. It has been said that playing the violin saved Albert Einstein from forever being a mediocre student. He had never been able to succeed before he began playing. Einstein said he found “some of his greatest inspirations” while playing, stating that it “liberated his brain” so that he could visualize ideas. King George I of England also felt listening to music would stimulate creative thought. He hired composer George Frideric Handel to produce his Water Music suites, which is said to have been played “while the king floated the Thames on his royal barge” . Famous Greek philosopher Plato even believed that in order for one to achieve the piece of mind necessary to contemplate, they must study music.
Everyone can improve himself or herself if they listen to music. Experiments relating exposure to music and intelligence are everywhere and usually positive. With the help of technology, we are beginning to understand the benefits of listening to and learning how to play music. Different types of music create different effects depending on the person. Listening to an up beat, fast song might give someone energy to work out; listening to a soft, relaxing song might put a person to sleep; and listening to Mozart may enhance “spatial reasoning” and memory in the brain. Whatever the situation may be, music seems to have a benefiting effect.
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2. Carroll, Robert Todd. The Mozart Effect available from http://skepdic.com/mozart.html; Internet, accessed April 29, 2004
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