How does classical music stimulate the brain?

Harvard study : Mozart's music doesn't make you smarter

The "Mozart Effect" was observed for the first time 20 years ago. At that time, Frances Rauscher from the University of California in Irvine found that after hearing a Mozart sonata for two pianos, students briefly performed better in an intelligence test in the sub-area “spatial thinking”. The idea of ​​getting smarter by listening to classical music inspired many people afterwards. Last but not least, parents, who are best to sonicate their children with Mozart and other classics while they are still in their womb, in order to increase their intelligence. A number of scientists also tried to reproduce Rauscher's results in their own experiments, but their results were mostly sobering. Psychologists at Harvard University have now also come to the conclusion that the Mozart effect only exists in the imagination - even if more than 80 percent of Americans believe in it.

The evidence of an IQ surge has always been weak

Samuel Mehr and his team first compared 15 four-year-olds who were taking music lessons with their parents with 14 four-year-olds who were taking art lessons for 45 minutes a week. After six weeks, the children were tested in the areas of language, math and spatial thinking. There were only minor differences, so in a second experiment the researchers divided 45 children into two groups. The first received music lessons, the second did not. Here, too, it turned out that the little musicians did not do better in the tests.

When the researchers also evaluated the results of both experiments together in order to compare music and art lessons with “non-training”, there were no significant differences between the three groups. "There were small differences, but they were not statistically significant," said study director Mehr.

The result of the Harvard researchers published in the journal “Plos One” is in the negative trend. Although dozens of studies investigated the Mozart effect, only five of the studies belonged to the high-quality randomized studies in which test participants are randomly divided into two or more groups in order to obtain the most objective possible picture. Of these five studies, only one was found to have an effect after one year of music lessons. It amounted to an IQ increase of 2.7 points and was so small that it was just statistically classified as significant, i.e. not random.

Music inspires

As early as 1999, the Harvard psychologist Christopher Chabris presented a simple explanation for the supposed Mozart phenomenon. Listening to pleasant music can excite the right hemisphere of the brain, he reported in the journal "Nature", and thus make it easier to solve difficult spatial thinking tasks. Because the right hemisphere is also entrusted with these. Put simply: music inspires.

Chabris’s assumption is that, according to research, listening to a story by horror writer Stephen King and not just Mozart can increase the spatial thinking skills required when folding and cutting paper samples. The prerequisite for success was that what they heard was appealing. And British schoolchildren did better on pop music than on Mozart sounds, compared to a control group that listened to a discussion of scientific experiments.

Music promotes creativity, concentration and discipline

Listening to music and making music are obviously not intelligence doping, but they have their value in themselves. Learning to play a musical instrument can also increase a child's creativity as well as the ability to concentrate and be disciplined. Not to mention the increased self-confidence that one feels after learning a new song.

“There are very good reasons to teach children music without it having to be of any other use,” says Mehr. "Music is an ancient, unique human activity - the oldest flutes unearthed are 40,000 years old, and human singing long preceded it." Every culture in the world has music, including music for children. "Music says something about being human, and it would be crazy not to teach our children that."

There are also other studies that suggest that music stimulates the brain in a variety of ways and can, for example, improve attention, working memory and the targeted perception of various sensory stimuli - without the Mozart effect.

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