by Kelly Sullivan ‘19
In recent years, research has shown that all types of music can affect the brain, but especially, classical music. In the past, the positive effect on the brain has coined the expression of the Mozart effect, the increased intelligence on someone if they listen to Mozart as a baby or child. More recent studies have shown this to be false, but classical music does differ from other types of genre of music with more influential effects on the brain. From the complexity of instruments layered together, and the organizations of the composition, classical music is able to calm an individual, increase some cognitive functions, and improve brain responses to speech when older.
All music has an effect on the brain, and some has the ability to calm an individual. Studies show that music can “can lower blood pressure, induce relaxation, reduce anxiety and even increase your libido,” according to Livestrong’s health website. What makes classical music unique is that it can clarify thinking and relaxes people who prefer to listen to classical music. Music can trigger the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. This is the reason that many people feel good when listening to music, and a lot of the time, classical music.
Although listening to Mozart does not instantly make one smarter, it does increase one’s ability to perform certain tasks. In an experiment with 36 young adults, some listened to ten minutes of Mozart’s sonata in D major, while the others listened to other genres and an audiobook. Students who listened to Mozart did better in spatial tasks—where relations are among objects or space, often used for everyday navigation, estimating measurements and distances, and knowing where objects or equipment are during a certain task—compared to the experimental group, those who listened to nothing, a tape of relaxation instructions, an audiobook, or other music.
According to the experiment’s results, within a short period of time, classical does increase better activity, like the ability for spatial tasks, but is not long lasting, nor does it guarantee increased intelligence. Although it does increase brain arousal and cognitive functions, it is possible that overall, others’ “enjoyment and engagement” is influenced by something else “rather than the exact notes [they] hear,” said Claudia Hammond, British writer and psychology lecturer. Overall, even though classical music does not have to do with intelligence, as originally thought with the Mozart effect, it does seem to correlate to improving the brain’s processes and it seems to engage people more.
Not only does classical music increase activity, but also to response to language.“What happens when we get older is that neural responses slow down, especially in response to very fast and complicated sounds like consonants,” said Dr. Nina Krauss, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, who indicates towards a study showing that those who took music lessons have a faster brain response to speech in later life.
In a publishment in Journal of Neuroscience, the study shows that the 44 adults, about ages 55 to 76, who were musically trained or played instruments when younger, had a faster brain response to speech sounds than those who did not. Having trained in music or listening to classical music, younger people are able to synchronize and remember beats, contributing to reading and speech, as well as other of their cognitive skills. The younger they are training, the more connections are built between the motor regions of the brain. In conclusion, listening to classical music when younger impacts how the brain develops and improves the cognitive processes when older.
Over the years, even though the Mozart effect has been proven false with research, listening to classical music influences the brain. Though mood, physical activity and cognitive functions, and brain responses, classical music has shown that it gives off a positive impact.