Learning About Gifted Kids
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The Mozart Effect Fact or Fiction?
A Free Report by Jovanka Ciares and Paul Borgese
Recently, there has been an explosion in products and services designed to develop the human brain through the use of music. Some researchers claim that certain types of music, (particularly that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) can improve a person's level of concentration, reasoning and even the ability of the human body to heal itself. This phenomenon has been dubbed "The Mozart Effect." Many researchers believe that Mozart's music can "warm up" the brain by facilitating complex neurological activities that are necessary for high-level functions, such as those needed to solve complex math and science problems. This Special Report explores this phenomenon by summarizing the research findings that support and reject "The Mozart Effect."
Most researchers on both sides of the debate agree that music can positively affect human beings, yet they believe that these positive effects are not limited simply to the music of Mozart or other classical composers. Indeed, most of the published research on the subject of sound and music explores not only classical music but a wide range of genres, including: samba, waltz, Native American and African rhythms and even rock and roll. With all these genres, researchers have been able to prove that music stimulates certain areas of the brain that are crucial to its performance in intuitive and logical matters.
In Support of The Mozart Effect
Following are some of the key findings that support the belief that music can have significant positive effects on the human brain:
- Studies have proven that babies in the womb can hear sounds; and in certain cases, music has helped their brains to develop at a faster rate. Some studies indicate that hearing lullabies either sung by the mother or played close to her womb can provide a sense of well being that may be crucial to the child's development during the first months of life in the womb.
- Several research studies have concluded that Jazz and New Age music can help Alzheimer's patients stay lucid and restore their brain waves for longer periods of time.
- A study with 69 children with autism, attention deficit disorder and epilepsy showed that while they are exposed to music (and, in some cases, for significant periods afterwards), their social skills and concentration improved dramatically in almost all cases. A related study proved that after a year of piano lessons and music therapy, the seizures in 79% of epilepsy patients disappeared completely.
- Baroque music (such as that of Bach and Vivaldi) has been used to treat arthritis patients. Studies indicate they move more freely and smoothly while exposed to music and that they remain flexible and pain-free for significant periods of time after such exposure.
- Several research studies conclude that our own voices can help ease pain and heal our bodies. There are several documented cases of patients that needed little or no painkillers after certain types of surgery that would normally require significant amounts of such medication. This was attributed mainly to the fact that they sang to themselves or simply hummed a tune on a consistent basis. Many migraine patients use humming as a way of avoiding the use of excessive amounts of medicine and also to prevent future attacks.
- Researchers found that music can lower or increase a person's heart rate and blood pressure, depending on the type of music. As might be expected, rock music can increase these readings while more soothing New Age instrumental has proven to lower them significantly.
- The auditory nerve in the inner ear can strongly affect many muscles in the body. As many people know, fluids in the inner ear enable us to maintain our balance. Music has proven to reduce muscle tension and improve body movement and coordination. In Norway, doctors began using music as therapy for children with severe physical disabilities and found that many types of music, including classical and popular, reduced muscle tension and relaxed the children.
As a result of these and many other studies, therapists, doctors and patients all over the world are putting sound and music therapies into action as a way to complement treatments for innumerable conditions.
Skeptics of The Mozart Effect
Some experts in the relationship between sound and the human brain disagree. While some people have reacted surprisingly well to the effect of classical music and other types of sounds in therapy, some others have had no significant response at all, or even worse, negative responses. One study concludes that Mozart's music and most of the serious music from the 1700s to the 1850s, had a negative effect on some study participants. Instead of improving brain functionality, their findings indicate that exposure to such music actually decreased their subjects' capacity to concentrate.
Currently, these studies are being expanded in order to obtain conclusive proof regarding the effects of music on the human brain. Researchers who are skeptical of The Mozart Effect claim that their pro-Mozart colleagues ignored data that did not "fit their hypothesis" and that they omitted information that could prove that all of the effects of the music were not so positive.
These skeptics also suggest that while music may have a positive effect in general, this may not be so for everyone. Furthermore, any positive effects are probably not limited to classical music.
The jury is still out. More research needs to be done. However, we conclude from our analysis of the research performed to date (regarding European classical, romantic and baroque music) that there is statistically significant evidence that exposure to such music has positive effects on the human brain. Like some of the researchers, we remain skeptical that such positive effects are limited to any specific type of music.