The Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music to Children: Facts and fiction.
Rudi Crncec, Sarah J Wilson, Margot Prior. Educational Psychology. Dorchester-on-Thames: Aug 2006. Vol. 26, Iss. 4; pg. 579
The Mozart effect: Tracking the evolution of a scientific legend.
Adrian Bangerter, Chip Heath. The British Journal of Social Psychology. Leicester: Dec 2004. Vol. 43 Part 4. pg. 605
I have no doubt that the "Mozart effect" has been hyped up out of all proportion, probably in an attempt by some music publisher(s) to flog their overpriced (no longer copyright) wares.
I don't believe that there is something about Mozart that will magically boost your IQ.
But conversely, I remain convinced that music (in general) has many beneficial effects on the human brain. The more I delve into the literature at the intersection of music, medicine and psychology, the more fascinating stuff I find.
Two recent events that made me stop and think:
At work, we have a monthly "journal club" where we get together, everybody brings food and drink (no drug companies here, thank you very much) and share medical journal articles that we have recently read and that are relevant to our day-to-day work.
I am usually known as the joker who, after the serious business is over, will contribute something with a title like "The Microbiology of Ear Wax." On one occasion about a year ago, my violinist colleague and I decided to have a bit of a laugh and presented the following article:
The Influence of Mozart's Sonata K. 448 on Brain Activity During the Performance of Spatial Rotation and Numerical Tasks.
Norbert Jausovec, Katarina Habe. Brain Topography. New York: Jun 2005. Vol. 17, Iss. 4; p. 207
One of the findings in the paper was that listening to this particular Mozart sonata reduced the frequency and amplitude of epileptiform (epilepsy-like) brain waves.
Of course, we all thought it was a bit of a novelty and we all had a good laugh.
The very next day, a lady in her 40's came to see me. She had recently started having epilepsy-like seizures, and I was seeing her monthly to check her progress while she went through a full workup by her neurologist. I asked her what sort of month she was having, and she said she was really well - had not had any seizures at all that month. I asked her if she was doing anything differently, and she thought about it a bit and said...(and I swear, with both hands on a bible, that this is true)..."Actually, I have been listening to a lot more Mozart..."
A few weeks ago, we had a few friends over for dinner, one of whom was a middle-aged child psychologist who was caring for her 18-month-old grandson while his parents sorted out their mental health and substance abuse issues. She had talked to me in the past about how she was worried that he did not seem to be developing properly, one of the concerns being that he had not yet made any real attempt to walk.
While most of the adults talked and ate, I tried to amuse the baby by sitting him on my knee at the piano and bashing out some simple tunes. I certainly didn't play any Mozart - probably nothing that was identifiable as "real" music. The little guy joined in the fun and beat on the keyboard with his little fists. After about half an hour of this, I placed him on a blanket with some toys in the general vicinity of Grandma, and he got up and....walked his first few steps.
(Much to Grandma's delight!)
So there you have it...just one humble GP's experiences with music. I'm sure there is still a lot for all of us to learn.
“all great composers wrote music that could be described as ‘heavenly’; but others have to take you there. In Schubert’s music you hear the very first notes, and you know that you’re there already.” - Steven Isserlis