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"Mozart Effect" - To Believe or Not to Believe?

The term “Mozart Effect” was first described by a French researcher, Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis in his 1991 book, Pourquoi Mozart? (Why Mozart?). In it, he explores the effects of classical music, specifically Mozart’s, on its ability to help children with learning disabilities. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a musical prodigy who composed multiple musical pieces that were subsequently recognized as pinnacles in their field; perhaps the idea was to subconsciously transfer some of that genius to the listener.  

This was subsequently expanded to numerous studies on the effect, which includes a publicized study in 1993 on 36 college kids, who listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart piece before performing several spatial reasoning tasks. The students who listened to Mozart performed better at the tasks than those who hadn’t; however, the effect only lasted for 15 minutes, as described by the research authors. The uses of the Mozart Effect continued to venture into stranger territory, from creating clearer water, making tastier ham, to relaxing herds of cows to improve milk production.

However, the Mozart Effect has frequently been associated with babies and younger infants, and it’s been claimed that pregnant women who listen to classical music on a routine basis would benefit their babies’ brain development. Most past studies have focused on the link between listening to classical music and subsequent logical/spatial skill tests.

Recently, a study on 20 pre-term babies at the Tel Aviv Medical Center in Israel seem to indicate that classical music helps premature babies to gain weight faster. However, the evidence that classical music can improve an infant’s intelligence is minimal. Most studies are conducted on older kids and adults, who are at a different stage of development than infants. What’s more, the effects are not limited to just Mozart’s music, but can be expanded to music from other composers and genres; basically, any source of sensory stimulation could excite the brain, propagating more synapses between brain cells, hence creating more efficient conduits of brain function. Whew!

More importantly, though, classical music has been proven to reduce stress levels, and has a mood-balancing effect, which is also applicable to infants. After listening to classical music, the babies were observed to be calmer, and expended less energy than babies in the no-music group.  For expectant mothers, classical music can be very soothing, and lower levels of stress reduces the risk of preterm labor, stress-related health issues, and pregnancy related depression. So even though the effects of classical music on intelligence and reason can’t be accurately quantified, there are benefits to be reaped from enjoying it.


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