Drop of history
It was in 1993 when Rauscher et al. made the surprising claim that, after listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos (K448) for 10 minutes, people showed significant cognitive improvement than staying in silence or after listening to relaxation instructions designed to lower blood pressure.
The results were confirmed by tests according to Stanford-Binet scale such as pencil-and-paper maze tasks and paper-cutting and folding procedures.
However, the author stressed that the improvement is temporal (10-15 min) and, as you may agree, does not have an effect on general intelligence (1).
Mechanism of Action for Mozart Music
Mozart’s music preferentially enhances blood flow in areas involved in spatial temporal reasoning; the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, occipital cortex and cerebellum (2).
About Stanford-Binet Tests
The Stanford-Binet intelligence scale is a standardized test that assesses intelligence and cognitive abilities firstly in children. The test is the American adaptation of the original French Binet-Simon intelligence test, which was introduced in 1916 by Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University. Intelligence test, in its turn, is based on mental age which is expressed as the chronological age for where a given level of performance is average or typical (3).
In simple words, the results of intelligence tests reflect how much the particular person is “smarter” or “slow-thinking” if compared to the average results of his/her peers.
Doubts and Sceptic Views
Some studies have failed to replicate the Mozart effect in adults and children, which could be due to procedural differences (2). It might be logic, because Stanford-Binet tests are primarily oriented to test children, not adults. As the tests were revised periodically (in 1937, 1960, 1973, 1986, and 2003), it might be the sign to see that the tests’ performance needed to be improved to reach reliable results (3). In addition, various authors utilized different cognitive tests, even working with puzzles (4). Some authors suggest that Mozart effect may only be demonstrable in non-musicians (5).
However, if looking for more tangible explanation of Mozart effect than intelligence tests, here below the other evidence will be described.
Resent study in 2018 by Grills et al. has shown that listening to Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos in D major (K448) has an anti-epileptic effect on the EEGs (electroencephalograms) of children. In this study, EEGs of forty five children (2-18 years old) who had epileptic activity were measured before and after listening to Mozart music. A significant decrease in epileptic activity on EEG was found in the children, during listening to Mozart music compared to the common music for children (2).
Effect on Growing Preterm Infants
In the study by Lubetzky et. al., 2009, improved weight gain was observed in preterm infants who were exposed to music by Mozart. The test was based metabolic measurement to see oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production using a special equipment (6).
Comparing the effect by Mozart and Beethoven Music
Brain activity was measured using modern scientific tools – through spectral analysis of the EEG in young healthy adults, healthy elderly and elderly with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). EEG recording was performed before and after listening to Mozart’s K448 or “Fur Elise” Beethoven’s sonatas. Alpha band (linked to memory, cognition and open mind to problem solving) was activated after listening to Mozart, both in adults and in elderly, but no changes were observed in MCI. Listening to Beethoven showed no changes in EEG activity.
This results confirm the fact that said Mozart’s music is able to “activate” neuronal cortical circuits related to attentive and cognitive functions (7).
Blog author’s note: Beta states are commonly seen as the states associated with normal waking consciousness that is analyzing and strategizing. However, in his book “Becoming Supernatural”, Dr. Joe Dispenza (8) shows that common analyzing and strategizing while being on Beta states is also a source of continuous stress (page 54). The practices like meditation (or prayer) allow to switch out of Beta- and slipping into Alpha brain-wave frequencies, therefore, to relax and become present at the current moment. The same Mozart’s music does!
Personal Experience with Mozart Music
When I listen to Mozart music, I could surely say that the overall feeling in mind and physical body changes. This was always like that, even before I wrote this article and learned scientific facts about the impact of Mozart’s music on brain. It seems like going to eternity, deep relaxation and a kind of pleasant feeling of weightlessness.
As for cognitive tests, just while writing this article I listened to Mozart and tried to solve one of the Stanford-Binet test online: https://stanfordbinettest.com/ (however to get the test results one should pay for it, so, I don’t know my score).
Yep, after some time I muted the music. I also think that my score of the test was not high (if not very low). Why? It was difficult to concentrate for me, but not because of Mozart, but because I Used To think in Silence for years.
In my teen age, to do any homework from a school or to remember a new batch of information, I listened loudly to music – it was the only way for me to remember or solve anything, especially mathematics and history. I even write a post about it too: Tribute to Prodigy / Prophylactic self-isolation series. Day 233rd. But I usually wrote verses (my best hobby ever) in deep silence.
However, at university and later I started to keep myself to silence while learning, writing or solving any tasks and that works best for me till now. Any blog I write here which were produced in DEEP SILENCE are the best written (in my personal opinion, of course).
Another argument is about the testing time: Stanford_Binet tests are oriented to solve in limited time, it means I need to think quickly. And yep, I am a slow thinker, always:))
I raised a question for myself: “Maybe it is better first to listen to Mozart music and only later to perform any brain activity?” This makes sense.
Here below is Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D, K. 448
- JENKINS, J.S. The Mozart Effect. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2001, vol. 94, no. 4. pp. 170-172
- GRYLLS, E., et al. Study of the Mozart Effect in Children with Epileptic Electroencephalograms. Seizure, 2018, vol. 59. pp. 77-81
- Intelligence test, written by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, online: https://www.britannica.com/science/intelligence-test#ref129844
- MCKELVIE, P. and LOW, J. Listening to Mozart does Not Improve Children’s Spatial Ability: Final Curtains for the Mozart Effect. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2002, vol. 20, no. 2. pp. 241-258
- TWOMEY, A. and ESGATE, A. The Mozart Effect may Only be Demonstrable in Nonmusicians. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2002, vol. 95, no. 3. pp. 1013-1026
- LUBETZKY, R., et al. Effect of Music by Mozart on Energy Expenditure in Growing Preterm Infants. Pediatrics, 20091207, Jan, 2010, vol. 125, no. 1. pp. e24-8 ISSN 1098-4275; 0031-4005
- VERRUSIO, W., et al. The Mozart Effect: A Quantitative EEG Study. Consciousness and Cognition, 2015, vol. 35. pp. 150-155
- Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza, 2017
MACDONALD, R., KREUTZ, G. and MITCHELL, L. Music, Health, and Wellbeing. Oxford University Press, 2013.