The Mozart Effect


Listening to Mozart enhances our brain activity. After listening to Mozart, the people in charge on standard IQ-test shows an increase of intelligence. 

It is observed by some scientists phenomenon is called "Mozart Effect." From him were immediately made ​​far-reaching implications, especially for child-rearing, the first three years of life have been hailed for determining their future intelligence. 

This theory has gained such a strong public reaction, that CDs of Mozart, with recommendations of parents, once in the beginning of the bestseller list, and the governor of the U.S. state of Georgia presented with a Mozart CD every new mother in his state.

True, the excitement had died down somewhat after some critics have tried to check the "Mozart effect" and does not have the predicted result. As for the children, in his book, an authority on the study of the brain and cognition John Brewer shows that "the myth of the first three years of" life has no reason and the human brain continues to change and to learn throughout life.

However intriguing hypothesis about the influence of music on brain activity not only keeps walking, but in recent years even received a number of compelling new evidence, both subjective and objective.

What is true that just a lie, and that - statistics?

For the first time this idea came across more than a decade ago neuroscientist Gordon Shaw of the University of California (USA) and his graduate student Leng during the first attempts to simulate the brain to a computer.

It is known that different groups of nerve cells in the brain perform different kinds of mental operations. Shaw and Lang created a computer model of a certain group of "cells" (actually - ECG) and check what happens if we change the way of connecting these "cells" with each other.

They found that each circuit diagram, that is, each regular "network" formed by the same cells, generates output signals that form and rhythm. Once they got the idea to convert those signals into sound output. To their great surprise it turned out that these signals have a musical character that is reminiscent of a kind of music, and more - every time you change the ways cells connect to the network nature of this "music" varied: sometimes it resembled a meditative melody of "New Age" sometimes - Eastern motifs, and even classical music.

But if the commission of cognitive operations in the brain is a "musical" character, thought Gordon Shaw, neither can it be that the music, in turn, can affect mental activity, stimulating certain neural networks?

Because these networks are formed in childhood, Shaw decided to use to test your hypothesis works of Mozart, who, as we know, began composing music at the age of four years. If one thing can affect the innate neural structure, reasoned scientist, it should be children's music by Mozart.

Gordon Shaw and his colleague, psychologist Frances Rauscher decided to use for the experiment standard IQ-test to check if the music of Mozart to stimulate the mind's ability to manipulate geometric shapes.

Ability to present the imagination different stereoscopic objects changing their position in space (for example, a rotation around its axis) is necessary in a number of the exact sciences, such as mathematics.

In 1995, Shaw and Rauscher published a study, which involved 79 college students.Students were asked to answer, what forms can be obtained from tissue paper, folding it and carving out a different way.

At the end of the test, students were divided into three groups. The students of the first group 10 minutes sat in complete silence, the second group all the time listening to the taped story or recurring primitive music, students of the third group listened to Mozart's piano sonata.

After that, all study participants repeated the test. Here are the results. While the first group improved by 14, and the second - by 11 percent, Mozart group correctly predicted 62 per cent more forms than in the first test.

Another staff member Gordon Shaw, Julien Johnson of the Institute for Aging and Brain, University of California, conducted the same test with the folding paper and cutting the pieces of altshaymerovskih patients who often impaired spatial representation.

In a preliminary experiment, one of the patients after receiving ten "dose" of Mozart improved by three or four correct answers (out of eight possible). Silence or popular music of the thirties did not give such an effect.

However, the experiment Shaw and Rauscher was criticized by other researchers.Kenneth Steele, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina (USA), said that he repeated this test of 125 people, but there is no sign of the influence of music by Mozart on the subjects.

Another psychologist, Christopher Chabris of Harvard, studied group contained 714 participants. According to him, the analysis of the test results also showed no benefit from hearing the music. Chabris suggested that the real cause of the problem in a better implementation of the experiment show-Rauscher was excitement of pleasure from the music of Mozart, not changes made to it in the neural networks. With high spirits people work better - you all know.

On the other hand, some skeptics after more familiar with the matter have changed their attitude to the effect of Mozart. So, Louise Hetland of Harvard College of Education handled the entire amount received to date test results, which included a total of 1014 people.

Its results were, of course, more reliable. She found that students Mozart overtake other groups performed the task more often than could be explained by pure chance. In this case, it found the effect was much weaker than that of Shaw and Rauscher. But even this small effect, according to Hetland, produces a significant impression.

To test their assumptions Rauscher put a special experience with rats, which certainly do not have an emotional response to music. A group of 30 rats was placed in a room, where for more than two months to 12 hours was played Mozart's Sonata in C Major.

It was found that after the rats ran the maze in an average of 27 percent faster and with less by 37 percent the number of errors than the other 80 rats, which developed among the random noise or silence. According to Rauscher, this experiment confirms a neurological rather than emotional effect of Mozart.

True, Kenneth Steele (who, incidentally, is an expert in training animals), these data are not convinced. Rats need to respond to rat squeak, not a human music, he said.

From the point of view of modern evolutionary or psychological theory there is no reason why the rats' brains should respond to Mozart as well as human.

Rauscher agreed that perhaps the music can simply provide the experimental rats more stimulating environment. She is now beginning a new series of experiments in which rats were going to compare, planted on a hard Mozart's "diet" with their counterparts in other cells also get incentives, but in the form of social contact and rat "toys", and not the music.

Were received, and other evidence of the impact of Mozart's music on the brain.Neurologist at the Medical Center at the University of Illinois (USA), John Hughes conducted an experiment on 36 patients with severe epileptic who suffered from almost constant seizures.

In the process of monitoring of patients included Mozart scholar and compared EEG brain before and during exposure to music. In 29 patients from this group of brain wave activity occurring during the attack, became less and less likely soon after the music.

"Skeptics may criticize studies using tests IQ, - says Hughes - but the results are objective, they are recorded on paper, you can count the number and amplitude of the electrical waves that excite the brain and observe their reduction during a hearing Mozart."

Interestingly, when instead of Mozart, these same patients listened to music of some other composers, popular rhythms thirties or complete silence, they have not seen any improvement.

And that leads to the intriguing question: Why Mozart? Why not Salieri, and not Bach, Chopin and many others? As we mentioned in the beginning, Gordon Shaw first turned to the music of this composer because Mozart began to compose his music in early childhood, and so it could be in their rhythmic properties closer to the processes that occur when a neural network in children brain. But the scientists have not found other, more objective explanation for this strange phenomenon? It turns out that such explanations exist.

The same Gordon Shaw and his counterpart from the Los Angeles branch of the University of California neuroscientist Mark Bodner used brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to get a picture of the activity of the patient's brain regions that respond to listening to music by Mozart, Beethoven ("Fur Elise") and pop music of the thirties. As expected, all types of music activated the section of the cerebral cortex (the center of hearing), which receives air vibrations caused by sound waves, and sometimes excited part of the brain associated with emotions.