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Mozart effect

Listening to Mozart’s music enhances our brain activity. After listening to Mozart, people who answer the standard IQ test demonstrate an increase in intelligence.

This phenomenon, discovered by some scholars, was called the “Mozart Effect.” From it, far-reaching conclusions were immediately drawn, especially with regard to the upbringing of children, whose first three years of life were proclaimed decisive for their future intelligence.

This theory received such a strong public outcry that Mozart’s CDs, with the appropriate recommendations from their parents, were at the very beginning of the best-seller lists, and the Governor of the US state of Georgia presented the Mozart CD to each new mother in her state.

True, the excitement somewhat subsided after some skeptics tried to check the “Mozart effect” and did not get the predicted result. As for children, John Brewer, an authoritative expert on brain research and cognition, shows in his book that the “myth of the first three years” of life has no foundation and the human brain continues to change and learn throughout life.

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

What is true here that is just a lie, and what is statistics?

The neuroscientist Gordon Shaw from the University of California, USA, and his graduate student Leng, first came across this idea more than ten years ago during their first attempts to simulate the functioning of the brain on a computer.

It is known that various groups of nerve cells in the brain perform various kinds of mental operations. Shaw and Leng created models of a certain group of “cells” (actually, electronic blocks) in the computer and checked what would happen if the ways of connecting these “cells” to each other changed.

They found that each connection scheme, that is, each successive “network” formed by the same cells, generates output signals of a different shape and rhythm. Once it occurred to them to convert these output signals into sound ones. To their greatest surprise, it turned out that all these signals had a certain musical character, that is, they resembled some kind of music, and moreover, with every change in the way the cells connected to the network, the nature of this “music” changed: sometimes it resembled meditative melodies like “New Age” , sometimes – oriental motifs, and even classical music.

But if the performance of mental operations in the brain is of a “musical” nature, thought Gordon Shaw, then could it not be that music, in turn, is capable of influencing mental activity by exciting one or another neural network?

Since these networks are formed in childhood, Shaw decided to use the works of Mozart, who, as you know, began to compose music at the age of four to test his hypothesis. If anything could affect the innate neural structure, the scientist reasoned, then it should be Mozart’s children’s music.

Gordon Shaw and his colleague psychologist Francis Rauscher decided to use the standard IQ test for the experiment to check whether Mozart’s music can stimulate the ability to mentally manipulate geometric shapes.

The ability to imagine different stereoscopic objects in the imagination when changing their position in space (for example, turning around their axis) is necessary in a number of exact sciences, for example, in mathematics.

In 1995, Shaw and Rauscher published the results of a study in which 79 college students participated. Students were asked to answer what forms can be obtained from a paper napkin, folding it and cutting it in various ways.

At the end of the test, students were divided into three groups. Students of the first group sat in complete silence for 10 minutes, the second group all this time listened to a recorded story or repeating primitive music; students of the third group listened to Mozart’s piano sonata.

After that, all participants in the experiment repeated the test. And here are the results. While the first group improved its results by 14 and the second by 11 percent, the Mozart group correctly predicted 62 percent more forms than in the first test.

Another Gordon Show employee, Julien Johnson, of the University of California Institute for Brain Aging, conducted the same paper folding and figure-cutting test among Alzheimer’s patients, who often have poor spatial representation.

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

However, the Shaw and Rauscher experiment was criticized by other researchers. Kenneth Steele, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina (USA), said that he repeated this test among 125 people, but found no signs of Mozart’s music impact on the subjects.

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