Last week we talked about how music affects the brain. We learned how the human ear processes sound waves and translate the waves into an audible sensation. We also covered a little body chemistry and talked about how dopamine boosts our mood and gives us feelings of happiness and sometimes the “chills.” From biology to the chemistry we discussed the physical and emotional aspects of music on the human brain, but throughout my research one question has repeatedly been asked, does musical genre matter?
Does it matter what kind of music we listen to? What seems to be a simple question may yield some complicated answers. Let’s take a look.
The Mozart Theory
Have you ever heard of the Mozart Theory? If you haven’t, the Mozart Theory was first introduced in 1993 by a group of scientists at the University of California, Irvine. The scientists conducted the study by asking a group of participants to listen to two piano sonatas by Mozart while another group listened to either silence or relaxation audio. The results of the study showed that those who listened to the sonatas showed an increase in spatial reasoning skills within ten to fifteen minutes of hearing the music. Those who were not exposed to the sonatas did not show a significant increase in brain function.
The study also considered the long-term effects of classical music and performed a series of tests gauging the long-term implications of exposure to classical music on a group of toddlers. The children were provided either classical music training on keyboards or computer lessons for six months. The children who received the keyboard lessons earned 30% higher marks on a spatial-temporal reasoning test than the kids who took the computer lessons.
Shortly following the release of the study’s results a flood of Baby Mozart CDs hit store shelves, successfully making parents everywhere believe that if they cared about their children, they need to play Mozart nonstop or risk having an academically stunted child. But despite the study’s claims, was it enough to justify the craze? What if it wasn’t Mozart‘s music, but rather the effect of musical exposure that helped the brain improve?
What do you think? Check back next week where we’ll talk about different music genres and how they affect how we think and feel.
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