The Effects of Classical Music on the Brain
Music is a part of our lives from the moment we are born. We grow up as children singing songs from our favorite TV shows, spend our teenage years at concerts and dancing it out in our rooms when no one is watching, and continue to quietly enjoy music throughout our adult lives.
For most people, music is more than something to be listened to quietly in their free time. It is used to exercise, to study, to improve creativity, and to connect with other people who have the same interests. It is well known that music affects our brains, but what about specific music genres? You’ve most likely heard about the Mozart Effect and seen countless Baby Mozart CDs for sale in shops. The Mozart Effect is the belief that if children, even babies still in the womb, are exposed to Mozart’s music, they will develop a more intelligent mind.
But is that really true? The term “Mozart Effect” was coined in 1991, and quickly became a very popular notion because it feels logical to many people. Mozart was a genius, and listening to his very complicated and beautiful music could no doubt lead to that genius rubbing off on us…right?
What are the true facts?
When you take a deeper look into the evidence and facts, things get a bit interesting. The first paper that coined the “Mozart Effect” term in ’91 was published by the University of California. For starters, children were not a part of the “experiment” and only young adult students participated, 36 of them to be exact.
The students would listen to either ten minutes of relaxation instructions (breathing, meditation, etc.), ten minutes of silence, or ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. After that, the students would be given a series of mental tasks.
Those who listened to ten minutes of Mozart did better than the rest at spatial tasks, however this affect was not permanent and seemed to last only about fifteen minutes. Still, there were those who later believed that the effects would become permanent if the person listening to the music was still in the development stage of their brains – i.e. children and babies.
So what’s the bottom line?
There is no solid proof that Mozart’s music has a permanent affect on one’s intelligence. However, after a few more analyses and research projects, it was determined that it did temporarily improve one’s ability to manipulate shapes mentally.
Again, most of these studies were conducted on adults. It was also proved later on that these effects were not exclusive to Mozart, but worked when subjects listened to anything they enjoyed.
So the bottom line is, if music makes you happy and you enjoy listening to it, keep at it. Something is happening in your brain and it’s most likely something good. We just don’t know how to quantify it yet!