Can You Improve Your Memory by Listening to Mozart?

This is Ron White, it is fascinating how the mind works, and I would like to share with you studies on the effect classical music has on memory and learning.

Years ago, in the 1990s, a study was conducted a the University of California at Irvine dubbed The “Mozart Effect.” It was later published later in the journal Nature. College students listen to 10 minutes of either: Mozart’s sonata for two pianos in D major; a relaxation tape; or silence. Immediately afterward the students took a spatial reasoning test (from the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale). Those who listened to the Mozart tape showed improved scores, compared to the other students. This turned out to be a cult phenomenon, even though the effects were only temporary, and lasted only about 10-15 minutes.

Early in the 1990s an experiment known as “The Mozart Effect” was conducted that seemed to link listening to classical music to memory improvement. The name of the study was chosen due to the music selected, a song by Wofgang Amadeus Mozart. It became a pop culture phase, written about in popular magazines and newspapers. People started playing classical music to their children to improve memory, increase intelligence and get better grades in school. Pregnant women even put headphones to their protruding bellies so their children would develop to be smarter while still in the womb. Was this just a fad, or was it based on fact?

Processing of music in the brain is a complex function that utilizes many areas of the brain – those involving learning, listing, emotions and memory. At the very core of music, it is just sounds, produced by vibrations that are carried to the ear by changes in air pressure. The characteristics of music are rhythm, pitch, timbre and melody. Somehow each individual brain sorts out the types of music that you will like, which accounts for different people having a taste for different types of music.

There have been many experiments conducted to explore how the brain processes music. Some have used EEGs (electroencephalogram), which shows that music is processed by both hemispheres of the brain. Other studies look into neuronal activity from the temporal lobe of patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy. In one of these studies, patients who were awake listened to different kinds of music, from Mozart to the theme from “Miami Vice”. Different types of music affect the brain in different ways.

Mozart reduced the neuron activity by 74%, while the Miami Vice theme reduced the activity in only 20% of the neurons. They also found that some of the neurons kept time to the music, indicating that somehow the temporal lobe is involved in processing music. What scientists do know is that damage to the temporal lobe could cause a condition called “amusia”, where a person would have problems processing or recognizing music, including playing a musical instrument or singing, but would not have any problems with hearing.

Researchers then theorized that, since the memory had improved when listening to music that spatial abilities and music share the same brain pathways, so it is entirely possible that the music simply opened up the brain for the spatial reasoning test.  Other studies since then have found no evidence to conclude that listening to Mozart can improve memory function.

 

 

 

Sources:

Memoryzine.com -  Mozart’s Music Improves Memory, Learning, Even Epilepsy: http://memoryzine.com/2010/08/26/mozarts-music-improves-memory-learning-even-epilepsy-2/

Discovery Fit & Health – Listening to Mozart Makes You Smarter: http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/10-brain-myths2.htm

 

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