A Cup of Mozart in the Morning

From a study by Jausovec N, Jausovec K, and Gerlic I:

OBJECTIVE: The study investigated the influence Mozart’s music has on brain activity in the process of learning. A second objective was to test priming explanation of the Mozart effect. METHODS: In Experiment 1 individuals were first trained in how to solve spatial rotation tasks, and then solved similar tasks. Fifty-six students were divided into 4 groups: a control one–CG who prior to and after training relaxed, and three experimental groups: MM–who prior to and after training listened to music; MS–who prior to training listened to music and subsequently relaxed; and SM–who prior to training relaxed and afterward listened to music. The music used was the first movement of Mozart’s sonata (K. 448). In Experiment 2, thirty-six respondents were divided into three groups: CG, MM (same procedure as in Experiment 1), and BM–who prior to and after training listened to Brahms’ Hungarian dance No. 5. In both experiments the EEG data collected during problem solving were analyzed using the methods of event-related desynchronization/synchronization (ERD/ERS) and approximated entropy (ApEn). RESULTS: In the first experiment the respondents of the MM, MS, and SM groups showed a better task-performance than did the respondents of the CG group. Individuals of the MM group displayed less complex EEG patterns and more alpha band synchronization than did respondents of the other three groups. In Experiment 2 individuals who listened to Mozart showed a better task performance [emphasis added] than did the respondents of the CG and BM groups. They displayed less complex EEG patterns and more lower-1 alpha and gamma band synchronization than did the respondents of the BM group. CONCLUSIONS: Mozart’s music, by activating task-relevant brain areas, enhances the learning of spatio-temporal rotation tasks. [emphasis added] SIGNIFICANCE: The results support priming explanation of the Mozart effect.

Here’s the Mozart piece:

And the Brahms:

The study authors here try to explain the “Mozart effect” as if it were a cup of coffee for spatio-temporal rotation tasks. Their summary seems to be that Mozart “wakes up” the circuits in the brain which are required for such tasks. While it may be true that there is a priming effect, as suggested, we have to remember that there are long-term effects of exposure to classical music, as well. The short-term improvement is interesting, but that is kind of like taking off ten pounds for your high school reunion, and then putting it back on again. As has been shown repeatedly, long-term exposure to classical music has permanent enhancing effects. If you’re interested in the short-term effects, set your alarm clock/radio to the classical station; it should at least improve your ability to drive to work!

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