Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Mozart effect, or what music does to us

To most people music is a form of art it lifts the soul and replaces the atmosphere with good vibes. According to neurobiologist Norman M. Weinberger, music exists in every culture. Parents all over the world sing to their babies. Music provides us with a natural and rhythmic way to learn. Do you ever wonder why children learn to sing their ABCs before they can say them?
Do you notice that so many of our favorite children’s books have a certain rhyme or rhythmic pattern? Many studies show that there is a very strong connection between literacy and music. Through music, children learn to understand language (we must comprehend language in order to become “true” readers). Experiment with rhythm, words, tempo, and melody (which are important skills in reading aloud). Think creatively and holistically. Make the connection between print and spoken words. Practice motor development and motor coordination while experimenting with various instruments and dancing. Listen (we sometimes forget that listening is an important literacy skill).

The concept of the "Mozart effect" was described by French researcher, Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis in his 1991 book Pourquoi Mozart? (Why Mozart?). He used the music of Mozart in his efforts to "retrain" the ear, and believed that listening to the music presented at differing frequencies helped the ear, and promoted healing and the development of the brain.

The 1997 book by Don Campbell, "The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit", discusses the theory that listening to Mozart (especially the piano concertos) may temporarily increase one's IQ and produce many other beneficial effects on mental function. Campbell recommends playing specially selected classical music to infants, in the expectation that it will benefit their mental development.

After The Mozart Effect, Campbell wrote a follow-up book, The Mozart Effect For Children, and created related products. Among these are collections of music that he states harness the Mozart effect to enhance "deep rest and rejuvenation", "intelligence and learning", and "creativity and imagination". Campbell defines the term as "an inclusive term signifying the transformational powers of music in health, education, and well-being. It represents the general use of music to reduce stress, depression, or anxiety; induce relaxation or sleep; activate the body; and improve memory or awareness. Innovative and experimental uses of music and sound can improve listening disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, autism, and other mental and physical disorders and diseases"

In 1999 a major challenge was raised to the existence of the Mozart effect by two teams of researchers. In a pair of papers published together under the title "Prelude or Requiem for the 'Mozart Effect'?" Chabris reported a meta-analysis demonstrating that "any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation", called "enjoyment arousal". For example, he cites a study that found that "listening either to Mozart or to a passage from a Stephen King story enhanced subjects' performance in paper folding and cutting (one of the tests frequently employed by Rauscher and Shaw) but only for those who enjoyed what they heard".
Kenneth Steele, psychology professor at Appalachian State University, found that "listening to Mozart produced a 3-point increase relative to silence in one experiment and a 4-point decrease in the other experiment". When he played the sonata to youngsters, he said it had no more effect on their intelligence than contemporary music, or even random noise did. Professor Steele is one of a number of scientists debunking the popular theory. John Bruer, head of the McDonnell Foundation in St Louis, is about to publish a book called The Myth of the First Three Years, in which he rubbishes the whole notion that a single piece of music can have an impact on a child's intelligence.

Music despite Professor steele debunking the Mozart effect, music is still important for growth. Daniel Levitin neuroscientist, musician and psychologist has a theory that early man used music to communicate with each other. Alterations in pitch and time,  can be conveyed by emotional or urgency, which later grew into a more complex language. Further investigations into the older parts of the brain the cerebellum responds selectively activated to music and not to language. This suggest that music since the Neolithic age has been around since the dawn of man. Music what ever genre can still make a positive effect on us, if you believe it helps stimulate your brain or not.

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