REVIEWING for exams, you turn on the radio to boost your spirits. Pop or rock music will probably groove you high, but if you’re after the right beat to rack your brains, listen to Mozart.

Studies say that listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositions, among other classical music, can tune up mind power. Since Mozart’s musical pieces match the rhythm of the brain, hearing his tunes could be the “sound” advice to anyone wishing to be bright.

Born in 1756 in Austria, Mozart was a child prodigy, and was learning clavier, violin, and organ at three. At six, he could play the piano blindfolded, with his hands crossed over one another. During these early years, he was performing before different courts of European countries. When he reached his teens, Mozart was already touring Europe performing concerts. His classic compositions include The Marriage of Figaro, A Little Night Music, Requiem, and The Abduction from the Seraglio.

French researcher Dr. Alfred Tomatis first described the “Mozart effect” was first described by in 1991. He concluded that Mozart’s music’s enhanced mental skills in his 30 years of work with special children..

Tomatis discovered that a child hears even before birth, and that pre-natal auditory experience is a critical phase in a child’s development. His research showed how Mozart’s music can provide an “audio bridge” for people with learning disabilities and other developmental disorders, even when they are still inside the womb, thus, allowing them to overcome developmental blocks.

According to Rosalito de Guzman, chairman of the College of Science’s Department of Psychology, music is not only pleasing to the ears, but also has therapeutic value.

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But Mozart’s music can offer more than sonic therapy. An article in Time magazine says Mozart’s compositions follow patterns that tend to repeat regularly every 20 to 30 seconds, similar to that of the normal human brain wave pattern. Mozart’s rich notes also jump from low to high pitch, stimulating the brain.

De Guzman explained that the brain needs neurobics, stimulants that rouse the mind with new forms of impulses which Mozart’s pieces do.

“Listening to music activates and empowers our mind. When sound waves enter the ears, the cochlea converts them into neural signals,” de Guzman said.

John Hughes, a neurologist at the University of Illinois Medical Center, said Mozart’s compositions suit human’s mental “pitch” and can even help cure epilepsy.

“In epilepsy tests, the patient’s brain fire impulses irregularly, resulting in brain seizures. However, since Mozart’s music emits sound waves like that of a normal human brainwave, the music stimulates brain waves counteracting or neutralizing the epileptic’s irregular impulses.”

The use of Mozart’s music in therapy has been documented by psychologists. In 1993, psychologist Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin reported that a group of 36 college undergraduates improved their spatial-temporal intelligence, the ability to recognize and control objects in three-dimensional space, after listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata. The students’ IQ tests also improved by 8 to 9 points.

In 2004, Rauscher reported that even for rats, a Mozart piano sonata can stimulate activity in three genes involved in the brain’s nerve-cell signals, making the mind more active.

In 2001, a study of the University of Leicester, UK, showed evidence that classical music reduces stress in animals, as well as people. Even chickens and cattles, who receive classical melodies, improved yields.

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How sound?

But the Mozart effect has been contested due to a number of dubious research works on its positive effects, geared to benefit music recording sales.

Although in the 1993 study of Rauscher, results showed that the students’ IQ scores improved, the effect was deemed temporary by critics, stressing the results only lasted for only 10-15 minutes.

In 1999, the Mozart effect was challenged by Christopher Chabris and Kenneth Steele in separate researches collectively titled “Prelude or Requiem for the ‘Mozart Effect’?”

In his meta-analysis, Chabris demonstrated that any cognitive enhancement is too small, not reflecting any change in IQ or reasoning ability. Instead, Mozart’s “magic” has a neuropsychological explanation. Apparently, listeners of Mozart perform better intellectually because they learn to enjoy the music, and this results in the desired effects.

Steele, on the other hand, found that the Mozart effect produced a three-point IQ test score increase relative to silence in one experiment, but a four-point IQ test score decrease in the other experiment. Also, the majority of Mozart effect research has been conducted on normal people, not on groups with mental disorders.

There’s nothing to lose in taking chances and joining the band. Either you listen to Mozart because you’re a genius, or hearing his music actually makes you one. In any case, the link between mind and Mozart will continue to rhyme. Laurence John R. Morales Sources: www.indiana.edu, www.educationthroughmusic.com and www.musica.uci.edu

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