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Mozart effect (part 1)

Listening to Mozart’s music increases our brain activity. After listening to Mozart, the people who answer the standard IQ test demonstrate increased intelligence.

This phenomenon discovered by some scientists was called the “Mozart Effect“. From it were immediately made far-reaching conclusions, especially with regard to the education of children, the first three years of life which were declared decisive for their future intelligence.

This theory received such a strong public resonance that Mozart’s CDs, with appropriate recommendations from parents, were at the very beginning of the bestseller lists, and the Governor of the us state of Georgia presented Mozart’s CD to every new mother in his state.However, the excitement somewhat subsided after some skeptics tried to check the “Mozart effect” and did not get the predicted result. As for children, in his book, the authoritative expert on the study of the brain and knowledge of John Brewer shows that the “myth of the first three years” of life has no basis and the human brain continues to change and learn throughout life.

Nevertheless, the intriguing hypothesis about the influence of music on brain activity not only keeps walking, but in recent years has even received a number of new strong evidence, both subjective and objective.

What is true here, that is just a lie, and that — statistics?

For the first time this idea came across more than a decade ago, neuroscientist Gordon Shaw from the University of California (USA) and his graduate student lang during the first attempts to simulate the brain on a computer.

It is known that different groups of nerve cells in the brain perform different kinds of mental operations. Shaw and LEng created a computer model of a certain group of “cells” (in fact — electronic blocks) and checked what would happen if you change the path of connection of these “cells” with each other.

They found that each circuit, that is, each successive “network” formed by the same cells, generates output signals of a different form and rhythm. One day it occurred to them to convert these output signals into sound signals. To their great surprise, it turned out that all these signals had a musical character, that is, they resembled some kind of music, and moreover — with each change in the ways of connecting cells to the network, the nature of this “music” changed: sometimes it resembled meditative melodies like “new Age”, sometimes — Oriental motifs, and even classical music.

But if the Commission of cognitive operations in the brain has a “musical” character, thought Gordon Shaw, neither can it be the case that the music, in turn, can affect mental activity, stimulating certain neural networks?

Because these networks are formed in childhood, Shaw decided to use to test his hypothesis works by Mozart, who is known to have started composing music at the age of four. If anything could affect the innate neural structure, the scientist reasoned, it should be Mozart’s children’s music.

Gordon Shaw and his colleague, psychologist Frances Rauscher decided to use for the experiment standard IQ-test to test whether Mozart’s music to stimulate the capacity for mental manipulation of geometric shapes.

The ability to imagine different stereoscopic objects when changing their position in space (for example, turning around its axis) is necessary in a number of exact Sciences, for example, in mathematics.

In 1995, Shaw and Rauscher published the results of the study, which involved 79 College students. Students were asked to answer what forms can be obtained from a paper napkin, folding it and cutting out in various ways.

At the end of the test, the students were divided into three groups. Students of the first group sat in complete silence for 10 minutes, while the second group listened to the recorded story or repeated primitive music; students of the third group listened to Mozart’s piano Sonata.

After that, all participants of the experiment repeated the test. And here are the results. While the first group improved its results by 14 percent and the second by 11 percent, the Mozart group correctly predicted 62 percent more forms than in the first test.

Another employee of Gordon Shaw, Julien Johnson of the Institute of brain aging at the University of California, conducted the same test with folding paper and cutting shapes among Alzheimer’s patients, who often have weakened spatial representation.

In the preliminary experiment, one of the patients after receiving a ten-minute “dose” of Mozart improved his results by three to four correct answers (out of eight possible). Silence or popular music of the thirties did not give such an effect.

However, the experiment Shaw and Rauscher was criticized by other researchers. Kenneth Steele, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina (USA), said that he repeated this test among 125 people, but found no signs of the influence of Mozart’s music on the subjects.

Another psychologist, Christopher Chabris of Harvard, examined a group of 714 participants. According to him, the analysis of the test results also did not reveal any benefit from listening to music. Chabris suggested that the real reason for the better performance of the task in the Show-Rausher experiment was the excitement caused by the pleasure of Mozart’s music, and not the changes made by it in the neural networks. In high spirits, people work better — everyone knows that.

On the other hand, some skeptics, after closer acquaintance with the question, changed their attitude to the Mozart effect. So, Louise Hetland of Harvard teachers College handled the entire amount received to date test results, in the amount involving 1014 people.

Her results were, of course, more reliable. She found that Mozart’s listeners overtook other groups in the performance of the task more often than it could be explained by pure chance. At the same time, the effect she discovered was much weaker than that of Shaw and Rausher. But this small effect, according to Hetland, makes a significant impression.

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