Music & Intelligence: Can Instrumental Sound Make You Smart?

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Scientists are always searching for a discovery that will provide a quick and easy way to increase intelligence. That music has an effect on systemic memory and learning has been known since the time of Plato, but how and why does his happen?

Research shows that the baroque music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is an ideal agent for stimulating the memory. In addition, it raises the level of attention, increases the time focused on learning, and improves thinking skills. Some of the most popular composers of this era were Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.

However, the greatest impact on memory comes from Mozart.

Why does listening to Mozart make learning easier?

The impact that listening to Mozart has on learning is called the Mozart effect. Research psychologist Francis Rausher and neurobiologist Gordon Shaw have determined the secret to facilitating learning. The mystery of Mozart as well as its influence lie in the fact that Mozart often repeated themes so as to make the next phase or passage interesting and pleasant.This repetition often occurs in different tones, but at the same intervals. To obtain the best effect of learning with Mozart it is advisable to study the material to be learned accompanied by the same music, and then repeat the process as we learn. This repetition, with periodic changes, improves spatial – temporal reasoning, which gives a sense of visualizing objects in motion.

How does music act on the brain?

Mozart’s music and baroque music, with a rhythm of 60 beats per minute, activates the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Establishing mental arithmetic triggers simultaneous operation of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, maximizing learning and permanent memory. The information being studied activates the left hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for carrying out logical actions and speech, while the music activates the right hemisphere, which encourages creativity. Also, activities that engage both hemispheres at the same time, such as playing an instrument or singing, train the brain to process, store, and use information better.

According to the American Center for new findings in learning, learning potential can be increased at least five times by listening to music with sixty beats per minute. The best results in learning are achieved by listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos in D major before a test or exam.This kind of music releases neurons in the brain that help the body relax. In addition, the conductivity of nerve impulses across the synapses (connections between neurons in the brain) is higher. It activates neurons and influences their development. Music has its strongest influence on the development and activity of neurons in the brain up to seven years of age, then can stimulate growth up to a further 25 percent to the age of fourteen, and can encourage the transmission of nerve impulses to some degree throughout the rest of life.

In research conducted in 1982 to determine the effects of Handel’s Water Music on students’ ability to remember, students listened to the music that Handel, as a court composer, had composed as “background music” for King George I’s trip down the Thames. The results showed better achievement in memory in students who were learning while listening to music the Water Music. Also, the prominent Bulgarian psychologist George Lozanov has played baroque music with sixty strokes per minute and found that students learned foreign language skills quickly, up to 1,000 words and phrases in one day, and the average rate of retention of learned information was 92 percent. Albert Einstein said that playing the violin was the secret of his success in science because it enabled him to solve mathematical problems and equations with the help of improvising on the violin.

How does the body react to music?

Music connects all elements of the body and has a strong effect on the individual’s emotional state, spiritual harmony, and sense of physical security. Classical music from the Baroque period relaxes the heart, stabilizes the heart rate, and lowers the blood pressure through the rhythm of the music. When the body is relaxed, the mind concentrates more easily and channels thoughts into action. Clock music affects the amplitude and frequency of brain waves, which can be measured by electro – encephalogram.

Treatment with the help of music

Music therapists are specially trained musicians who best understand the rhythm of the music, and while working with sick people encourage them to self-analyze and evaluate their own thoughts and solve their problems. In this way, patients themselves experiment with sound as a means of self-expression, regardless of whether they are musically talented, have an ear, or don’t. One of the world’s experts in this field and a possible Nobel laureate, Professor Alfred Tomatis, has developed a special form of music therapy which reduces noise in the ears and is based on the works of the famous Mozart. The treatment asks patients to listen to Mozart with the help of an “electronic ear” to filter and manipulate the various frequencies of the music in order to suppress or stimulate the activities of certain brain areas. In addition to encouraging patients to come out of the gloomy world of disease, the professor’s treatment alleviates their symptoms, encourages good humor and optimism, and has an impact on improving the heart rate. Music therapy has also helped people with speech impediments, including many celebrities who have overcome their speech defects with the help of these therapies (Gerard Depardieu, Maria Callas, and Romy Schneider, to name a few). Terminally ill patients have found comfort in music, while pregnant women have recorded an improved tolerance of pregnancy and a greater incidence of normal birth. 

Previous scientific studies have usually focused on classical music, but recent experiments have shown that memory improves with certain modern rock music, particularly specific artists such as Jimi Hendrix, AC / DC, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Guetta, and Martin Garrix.

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