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Mozart effect (part 2)

To test their assumptions Rauscher put a special experiment on rats, which is obviously not an emotional reaction to the music. A group of 30 rats was placed in a room where Mozart’s Sonata in C major sounded for more than two months for 12 hours in a row.

It turned out that after that the rats ran the maze on average 27 percent faster and with 37 percent fewer errors than the other 80 rats that developed among random noise or in silence. According to Rausher, this experiment confirms the neurological rather than emotional nature of the Mozart effect.

However, Kenneth Steele (who, incidentally, is a specialist in animal training), these data are not convinced. Rats should respond to rat squeak, not to human music, he said.

From the point of view of modern evolutionary or psychological theory, there is no reason why rat brains should react to Mozart in the same way as human brains do.

Rauscher agreed that perhaps the music may just provide the lab rats in a more stimulating environment. Now she began a new series of experiments in which she is going to compare rats planted on a rigid Mozart’s “diet” with their counterparts in other cells, also receiving stimulation, but in the form of social contacts and rat “toys”, not music.

Other evidence of the effects of Mozart’s music on the brain has also been obtained. A neurologist from the Medical center at the University of Illinois (USA), John Hughes conducted an experiment on 36 patients with severe epileptic who suffered from almost constant seizures.

In the process of observing the patients, the scientist included Mozart’s music and compared the brain encephalogram before and during the influence of music. In 29 patients from this group, the brain waves arising during the attack became weaker and less frequent soon after the music was turned on.

“Skeptics may criticize studies conducted using IQ tests,— says Hughes,— but here the results are objective, they are fixed on paper: you can count the number and amplitude of electric waves that excite the brain, and watch them decrease during the hearing of Mozart.”

It is interesting to note that when instead of Mozart these same patients listened to the music of some other composers, popular rhythms of the thirties or complete silence, they did not see any improvement.

And this leads to an intriguing question: why Mozart? Why not Salieri as well as Bach, Chopin or many others? As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, Gordon Shaw was the first to turn to the music of this composer because Mozart began to compose his music in early childhood and therefore it could be closer in its rhythmic properties to the processes that occur when neural networks occur in the child’s brain. But have scientists found other, more objective explanations for this strange phenomenon? It turns out that such explanations exist.

The same Gordon Shaw and his colleague from the Los Angeles branch of the University of California neuroscientist mark Bodner used brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to obtain a picture of activity in those parts of the patient’s brain that respond to listening to music by Mozart, Beethoven (“fur Elise”) and pop music of the thirties. As expected, all kinds of music activated the part of the cerebral cortex (the hearing center) that perceives the vibrations of the air caused by sound waves, and sometimes excited parts of the brain associated with emotions.

But only Mozart’s music has activated all parts of the cerebral cortex, including those involved in motor coordination, vision and higher processes of consciousness and can play a role in spatial thinking.

What is the reason for this difference? Some light on this problem can be shed by the research of the already mentioned neurologist John Hughes in cooperation with musicologists. Scientists have analyzed hundreds of musical works by Mozart, Chopin and 55 other composers.

They presented the results in the form of a table, which indicated how often the waves of musical sound volume, lasting 10 seconds or more, rise and fall. The analysis showed that the more primitive pop music is located at the bottom of this scale, while Mozart takes two or three times higher place.

According to Hughes ‘ prediction, the strongest reaction in the brain should be caused by a sequence of waves repeating every 20-30 seconds. This prediction is based on the fact that many functions of the Central nervous system also have a cycle of 30 seconds (such is, for example, the frequency of waves of activity of neural networks).

It turned out that of all the analyzed types of music it is in Mozart’s peak volume with a frequency closest to 30 seconds, repeated more often than in all the others. Maybe the resulting effect can be compared with the resonance? At the next stage of his work, Dr. Hughes is going to check whether the selected pieces of music according to this prediction have the strongest effect on the brain.

But back to those experiments that demonstrate the above positive impact of Mozart’s music on healthy and sick people. All the improvements found were short-lived. On the other hand, all these experiments involved adults with already formed brains.

On this basis, some researchers have suggested that, perhaps, in children, with their only emerging neural networks, listening to Mozart can cause not only short-term, but also long-term, sustainable improvement in mental activity. This opinion is shared, in particular, psychologist Francis Rausher.

Indeed, it was as if Rausher had discovered such influence in the course of five years of watching the children. Children who received music lessons for two years, improved the ability to spatial thinking, and this effect does not disappear with time.

Rausher suggested that music can have a structural impact on the formation of neural circuits in the child’s brain. From what followed, that musical impact in childhood can give man intellectual advantages in adulthood able.

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