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"Mozart Effect" Has A Molecular Basis 88

Posted by timothy
from the baby-chloe-is-a-genius dept.
pingbak writes "The 'Mozart effect,' where students were observed performing better after being exposed to a Mozart sonata, appears to have a basis in reality. According to New Scientist, two researchers have found the underlying biomechanics in mice stimulated by the effect. They don't know the details why Mozart's sonatas really cause this effect, but they know where to look. Guess I'm going to have to switch Shoutcast streams now..."
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"Mozart Effect" Has A Molecular Basis

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2004 @06:22PM (#8961448)
    Now find me the music that gets the ladies "in the mood," and there's some research I'll be happy to see my tax dollars funding.

    (Boy, am I opening myself up with this one!)

    P.S. 1st post.

    ~~~

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2004 @06:27PM (#8961486)
    Just the opposite. They seem to have found some end results of this process in some gene expression. How the hell listening to Mozart could cause this has yet to be explained.
  • Duh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2004 @06:27PM (#8961492)
    People who listen to Mozart score better on their exams than those who listen to Britney Spears. I'm sure this is all about some kind of mysterious electromagnetic interaction with synapse electric fields and not about better taste being highly correlated with higher intelligence. When those rats start quoting Shakespeare, get back to me.
    • Re:Duh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      Which rats the RIAA (and its followers) or the test subjects
    • Re:Duh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sydb (176695) * <michael@wd21HORSE.co.uk minus herbivore> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:02PM (#8962020)
      I agree that people who like Mozart are inately superior; I myself enjoy his works.

      However I'm pretty sure my performance does in fact change when I listen to Mozart. In fact I find the two best things to listen to, which seem to promote logical thinking and motivation to act, are Mozart (and similar music) and noise (like Aube).

      I suspect they have different modes of operation.

      Mozart's music is very well structured, like a good program, so the mind can latch on to the motifs therein and engage in the rythmn of the music without an overriding desire to get up and dance.

      Noise encourages the imagination gently, by providing a relatively blank canvas, but, given decent composition, also a sense of rythmn in the sound.

      I find music with lyrics is useless as an adjunct to work as the words are distracting. Most other types of music are dance-provoking.

      Mozart and Noise are great!
      • You should check out Juno Reactor. Their albums Beyond the Infinite, Bible of Dreams, and Trasmissions are tops notch. I would suggest finding some MP3s on the net. If you like what you hear, treat yourself to buying on of their albums :)

      • This new learning amazes me, sydb. Explain again how sheep's bladders can be employed to prevent earthquakes.

        That was the least substantiated thing I've read all day--and I've been doing a lot of research into Christianity. What evidence at all could you possibly conjur to even remotely assert that as a theory? I know it's only a theory, but c'mon--latching on to 'motifs therein' and to 'engage' in rhythms is dancing, regardless of mental or outward physical manifestation. That would insinuate that the bra
        • by sydb (176695) *
          I'm so sorry my post did not achieve the high standards of scientific integrity demanded by you. Now I know that Slashdot is a journal of the highest pedigree I'll be more careful to provide detailed references, and to back up any new claims with rigorous experimental data.

          Regards.
        • Re:Duh. (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by sydb (176695) *
          Oh, I forgot to use the word "prick" in my other post and I don't want to be incomplete in my synthesis so here it is:

          Prick.
        • Quiet, you! He's "inately" superior.
    • Re:Duh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:11PM (#8962066) Homepage Journal
      If you actually read the study, it has nothing to do about musical preference.

      Subjects in the human study were recruited randomly and placed into one of three conditions: Mozart, No Music, Popular Music.

      They performed better under the 'Mozart' condition.

      • Re:Duh. (Score:5, Informative)

        by outlier (64928) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @10:50PM (#8962727)
        There have also been a number of studies that challenge some of the claims of the Mozart effect. For example:

        "Listening to Mozart does not improve children's spatial ability: Final curtains for the Mozart effect" McKelvie, Pippa; Low, Jason; British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Vol 20(2), Jun 2002. pp. 241-258.

        "The mystery of the Mozart effect: Failure to replicate." Steele, Kenneth M.; Bass, Karen E.; Crook, Melissa D.; Psychological Science, Vol 10(4), Jul 1999. pp. 366-369.

        "Failure to confirm the Rauscher and Shaw description of recovery of the Mozart effect." Steele, Kenneth M.; Brown, Joshua D.; Stoecker, Jaimily A.; Perceptual & Motor Skills, Vol 88(3, Pt 1), Jun 1999. pp. 843-848.

        "The Mozart effect: An artifact of preference." Nantais, Kristin M.; Schellenberg, E. Glenn; Psychological Science, Vol 10(4), Jul 1999. pp. 370-373.

        Abstract: Replicated and extended the findings that were reported by F. H. Rauscher, G. L. Shaw, and K. N. Ky (1993, 1995) about the Mozart effect, which indicates that spatial-temporal abilities are enhanced after listening to music composed by Mozart. In Exp 1, performance on a spatial-temporal task was better after 56 college students listened to a piece composed by Mozart or by Schubert than after they sat in silence. 28 college students participated in Exp 2, which found that the advantage for the music condition disappeared when the control condition consisted of a narrated story instead of silence. Results suggest that performance was a function of listeners' preference (music or story), with better performance following the preferred condition. (emphasis added)

        "The Mozart effect: Not learning from history". Jones, Stephanie M.; Zigler, Edward; Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol 23(3), May-Jun 2002. pp. 355-372.

        Abstract: This paper critiques the links between recent reports on the impact of early experience on the developing brain and proposed policies and interventions for young children. Using the "Mozart effect" as a contemporary example, as well as several examples from history, the case is made that brain research is being misappropriated to the service of misguided, "quick fix" solutions to more complicated, systemic issues. The paper concludes with a brief summary of research that, by contrast, illustrates the substantive contribution of high quality, intensive, multidomain interventions to early cognitive and social development. (emphasis added)

        Of course, this doesn't really say anything about the current study. It may very well be that some features of Mozart's work (or classical music, or music, or certain types of sounds) do have distinct effects on gene expression at the hippocampus. It may also be that lots of other stimuli have similar effects. Take this, and the whole "Mozart Effect" thing with a very large grain of salt.
        • I get it. I actually study music in psychology. =)

          I was simply poining out that the poster's criticism (people's taste affects their intelligence, that's why the mozart effect manifests) isn't really a good one in this case. =)

        • by danila (69889)
          Of course, even if the effect is entirely fictitious, those of us who enjoy Mozart can improve our performance by means of his music and a well placed placebo. :) I am certainly going to try it now.
        • Indeed. My fiance has a music therapy degree and professional certification and has expressed to me that, while music does affect people greatly, the so-called "Mozart Effect" has been soundly disproved. In fact, it was over this very discussion that we originally fell in love. The study had a very flawed methodology that renders the results inconclusive.

    • People who listen to Mozart score better

      Not that I've seen.

      But if you've got proof of scoring better with Britney then I'll reconsider that conclusion.

    • Re:Duh. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tackhead (54550)
      > When those rats start quoting Shakespeare, get back to me.

      "Pondreth thou that which I ponder?"

      "Indeed, fair Brain, but how would the use of iambic pentameter aid us in overtaking the globe?"

      "Silence, else I shall injure thee!"

      "BARD!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2004 @06:36PM (#8961541)
    This sort of phenomenon has to be triggered by something _other_ than Mozart. Like the pitch or frequency or some voodoo like that. But not because Mozart wrote it. I'm sure the same thing works with lots of classical music.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This sort of phenomenon has to be triggered by something _other_ than Mozart.

      Yes, other studies have found any stimulating (fast) music works. Certain people still like to pretend it's an endorcement of classical music.

      • hmmm, maybe it's *complex* music of any kind that has this effect? Most popular music is very simple in structure and lyrics. As an aside, there are animals that make more complex songs than most rap "music".
        • > hmmm, maybe it's *complex* music of any kind that has this effect? Most popular music is very simple in structure and lyrics. As an aside, there are animals that make more complex songs than most rap "music".

          I tend to agree. Someone mentioned Juno Reactor - a good case in point; it's techno that features lots of interwoven beats, three or four different strands of music being played simultaneously, and I find I'm more productive when listening to it.

          As for rap, ditto. Hip-hop today grates on

      • by NanoGator (522640) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:19PM (#8962100) Homepage Journal
        "Yes, other studies have found any stimulating (fast) music works. Certain people still like to pretend it's an endorcement of classical music."

        Not a big fan of classical music myself, but I can sort of see it working. Classical music has more of a pattern to it than modern dance music. Memorizing it takes a little more mental resources, depending on the song that is. I remember listening to a well made techno remake of Beethoven's 5th. (It's from the Jaguar Game Defender 2000, you can find it here [66.102.7.104], it's Trak 8 Bonus level..) I remember listening to it and thinking about how rich it felt. I never cared for the original orchestral version but the techno one was done very artistically. It felt like it had more artistic patterns to it than my typical library of techno music.

        I really can't rationalize this on a a scientific level, but there's far more to this song to appreciate than I normally run across. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if more of my neurons were firing off pulses as a result of it.

        I really don't think, though, it's because it's classical music specifically. I think it just has more to do with the way the composers had to make the music back then. Writing notes down on paper. One can imagine how, during the creation of that song, they'd make the notes themselves as artistic as possible. These days, I don't think music is quite made like that. Seems to be more about making the lyrics work and attaching a few loops and beats to it to chain the words together. I think the more 'engaging' music could easily be made today, it's a matter of focusing the artist down to making art from the patterns of notes.

        Or maybe I'm just on crack. I just couldn't help remembering how much I appreciated hearing that techno remix of that song after reading the article today. Lots of ideas about that.

      • I find that I have an easier time thinking when I'm listening to certain kinds of electronic music, such as some (say what you will) IDM.

        I always figured the must be similar to the Mozart effect since a lot of the electronic music I like to listen to is structurally similar to various kinds of Classical music.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The article lists a few things Mozart's music stimulates. However, I wonder if there are any chemicals that have same or similar effects? The jocks have been doing steroids for years now. Don't you think it's time for us geeks to develop better learning aids than caffeine and a few other common stimulants?

    Or does anyone know of a few already? If so, enlighten me. I'd love to try them out if they can really help me concentrate or if they help me memorize things better.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I find alcohol helps. After a few beers, I feel like I can program anything.

      I've written some of my best Perl after a couple of Sam Adamses. I know it's great Perl because I can't read it afterwards, and it doesn't work.

    • there's also that old german stuff, what's it called? I believe it's non-addictive [com.com], if anything. Yeah.

      The powdered Kola nut, however, is dangerous unless you dose it properly. Apart from that, it's completely legal (at least in DK) and harmless. I can really recommend trying to look it up on the net. If you really want what you describe, you will take the time to find out what it is, what it does, and where you can buy it - for yourself.
      Remember, dose low.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm no scientician, but the following might help:

      Learn to play an instrument. Well.
      Study new things.
      Read more.
      Stop jerking off.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @07:58PM (#8962003) Homepage
    I'd much rather see a Honda Wigger blasting Mozart in his car, than the wretched "Niggas N Hoes" shake-fest. If it has any positive effect on his intelligence that's a much needed bonus.

    But I think these research efforts would be better invested towards designing rap music that kills its listener.
    • by Bastian (66383) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:31PM (#8962152)
      That would be a violation of the first law of car stereo dynamics: The price of the car stereo system is inversely proportional to the quality of music that it plays.

      (On a side note, I'm curious if there's a way to create some sort of HERF gun that reliably disables subwoofers but nothing else. Is this even theoretically possible?)
      • A magnetron from a microwave oven + a suitable waveguide , whilst not being very selective, would likely knock out any power amps / head units at quite a distance.

        It'd also only (probably) cause minor heating effects to people at any appreciable distance from it, considering the amount of time it would take to fry the electronics (a few seconds,say) .... well, maybe as a precaution you shouldn't point that thing at yourself :-)
      • Here is how you get that to work:

        1. Buy up 1st tier suppliers for radio mfgs.
        2. Implement "secret" feature to disable these with a simple RF frz.
        2.5 ...
        3. Wait 5 years.
        4. Enjoy the ability to disable almost anyone's car radio and equipment.
        5. ...
        6. Build a device that disables your disabling system. Sell to youngsters.
        7. PROFIT!
        8. See secret item 2.5 where you built in a second disabling device.
        9. Enjoy your power.

      • Disable!? Why not find some way of causing the subwoofers to explode! Now that would be much more satisfying =)

      • I wish I could design a HERF gun that disable blanket statements.

        Subwoofers existed well before rap was born. We just didn't call them subwoofers back then, we called them ground pounders. Ask any classic rock fan and you will be shown 15 and 18-inch woofers that can turn Keith Moon's drumming into a deadly sonic weapon.

        I use a subwoofer right at my feet as part of my home studio/stereo. It is tuned very low so that it admirably completes my near-field monitors' frequency spectrum almost transparently.
  • Overly compressed? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kaali (671607) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @08:31PM (#8962154)
    Maybe it has something to do with overly compressing music, as seems to be the case on 98% of modern records. In classical recordings the music has it's ups and downs volume-wise, on modern recordings the volume is almost flat. Maybe our brains get the energy for listening to progressing sounds of pitch, rhytmical qualities and volume? I trust that these scientists tested on music that is not loop-based, but progressive.. but did they test on a record that is not overly compressed?
    • So I guess a .WAV file would be better than an MP3, which would be better than OGG? Too much compression? :^)

      But seriously, I agree with you. There are human aspects to music performance, the rhythm of the bow on a violin, the concordance of keys being hit on a piano, that are no longer limitations on the production of music using a synthesizer.

      It's a well known effect of rhythm to induce hypnotic states that is used by revival preachers all the time, while it may be they don't know how they do what they
      • by SW6 (140530) <abuse@cabal.org.uk> on Sunday April 25, 2004 @05:45AM (#8963933) Homepage
        So I guess a .WAV file would be better than an MP3, which would be better than OGG? Too much compression? :^)

        I might have guessed that Slashdot readers immediately think of reduced file sizes when somebody mentions "compression" and "audio" in the same sentence.

        Compression when applied to (analogue) audio means changing the dynamic range of the signal - i.e. making quiet parts louder - so as to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. The Dolby B system for audio cassettes should be known by many. Such compression usually includes a decompression step to recreate the original signal. This is why tape players without Dolby decoders will have a different sound - because you're still listening to the compressed signal.

        Compression can also be used to make the dynamic range "flat", i.e. that the signal has a constant average volume. Many radio stations compress like this so that they sound the loudest on the dial. However, the music tends to sound terrible as a result. Such compression is destructive because everything is made equally loud and a decompressor cannot determine the original volume to recreate the original signal.

        So, the former kind of compression is fine, even desirable, whereas the latter is not. Try not to confuse them, but if somebody does, they're probably on about the latter ;)

      • by rakeswell (538134) on Monday April 26, 2004 @12:18PM (#8973290) Homepage
        Remember that he [Mozart] started writing in the Baroque period, where mathematical precision and principles were being explored in music. See Bach for instance.

        This statement is misinformed.

        While Mozart was born in the same year that Bach died, there was no stylistic relationship between them. It wasn't until much later in his life that Mozart even discovered the works of Bach. Even in his day, Bach was considered old fashioned, and was very much "out of style".

        While Bach looked back to the old contrapunctal methods of structuring a piece of music, Mozart (and his contemporaries) were involved with largely homophonic music written in the Sonata form. In terms of texture, music from the classical common practice (including Mozart) consists of a melodic subject, and an accompaniment, whereas textures in Bach's music relies heavily on imitative counterpoint.

        My thinking has always been that if the "Mozart effect" actually has any basis, it's in the structure of the melodic phrasing: antecedent consequent.

        In classical common practice, melodic phrasing usually followed the convention of an Antecedant phrase (often moving harmonically from the region of tonic to dominant), followed by a Consequent phrase (often harmonically moving from dominant to tonic). This creates a very strong sence of symmetry. To pick a tune probably everyone here is familiar with, think of the opening phrases (or any other for that matter) from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

        It is this powerful effect of aural symmetry that I suspect has the most profound effect on our minds. It also typifies classicism in every sence: reason, order, symmetry.

        BTW, I really find no basis for the all-too-common assertion of the link between mathematics and music. Composers (excepting people like Stockhausen perhaps) do not conceptualize music in mathematical terms. There is a relationship in that both music and mathematics have a symbolic notation, and that one can describe anything using mathematics, but that's about it.

        • My first girlfriend studied Music Theory, ah the memories your posting brings back. ...few of which have to do with music...

          Bob-
        • "...visited a young Wolfgang Mozart, who was three days old at the time.

          "PDQ sensed a great potential in the boy, and told his father that with the right training and encouragement, he could become one of the greatest billiards player the world had ever seen."

        • While Mozart was born in the same year that Bach died... Quick fact-check FYI: JS Bach: 1685-1750 WA Mozart: 1756-1791
  • Specifics ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jtoxification (678057)
    That's all well and good, but regardless, can someone at least give the name of the sonatas in question ? Even if the report is to be believed, (and heck, if one reads the linked article, it makes sense, especially the part about mouse toys) there are a lot of compositions by Mozart ... to say they do better than other music in general, is, in and of itself, too vague and unscientific. I'd like titles, please ?

    And while we're at it, shouldn't we examine what makes them so powerful ? We certainly have no
    • Re:Specifics ? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jerf (17166)
      every University and College *I know of* has an incredibly grueling music theory degree, and after taking a simple piano appreciation class, this CS student knows better than to take any more music courses regarding song analysis!

      Hmmm. Speaking as someone who got a Masters in Comp. Sci., I found music analysis to be almost trivial, certainly I found it much easier then my fellow musicians. In particular, I was very easily able to straddle the line between "the rules" and "the feel".

      (For those who have ne
  • by wafwot (739342) on Sunday April 25, 2004 @01:06PM (#8965625)

    As a composer and an on-going student of music (you never really stop learning), I feel I should comment on this.

    Mozart's music may be extremely structured, but it was also innovative because of it's lack of structure. If you listen closely, you can see that Mozart would write out "improvised" sections, as his best asset was his ability to improvise just about anything. Calling a simple chord progression structure is like saying, "This pile of mud is a house."

    A lot of new music, and I don't mean anything you can find on the radio, is highly structured. Minimalists, such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, build their music off of a few (or many) simple rhythmic/melodic elements that are repeated.

    In all honesty, there may not be any logical explanation. Have they tried other recordings of this piece? Or just one? What about some of his other piano sonatas? Or maybe Beethoven's Piano Sonata in Cminor (which was based, nearly measure by measure on Mozart's Piano Sonata in Cminor)? What about Bach? Or Haydn?

    Before they can make any real conclusions, I think they have a metric butt-ton of research to do.
  • Why is it always Mozart used in these kinds of tests? Why not some more interesting classical music? Mozart always sounds like elevator music to me. How about some Lizst or Rachmaninov or even Bartok? Something with a little "chest hair"?

    Let's face it, Mozart was the Britney Spears of his period...

    • How about some Lizst or Rachmaninov or even Bartok?

      because those are Romantic and Modern composers and Mozart was a Baroque composer.

      Baroque = structure, math, set formulas, chord resolution (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor), cuteness.

      Romanticism = no math there, just a main theme, sometimes based on a folk tune, with variations, a peek inside the mind of someone in love or preoccupied with other thoughts, like Dvorzhak's New World Symphony, or Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

      Modern (in a classical

      • I'm not sure that it is relevant which period the composer came from. I am simply trying to point out that Mozart is very boring and cutesy.

        However now that I think about it your logic is a bit funny; you claim that there is "no math" in the music of the romantic composers I cited. True, there is a less rigid structure, with more room for variation and creativity, but that doesn't make it unstructured...

        And Mozart was like Britney only in that he was unbelievably popular for his day... he certainly wa

        • Actually, he was more like a Michael Jackson. Britney was 17 or 18 (I think?) when she made her "pop debut". Mozart was less than half that age. (And, if you want to get picky, Beethoven was one of the first "pop" artists. Until him, most composers/performers had patrons -- Beethoven supported himself through his publishing deals, and even had an agent: his brother.)

          And actually, the period is very important. Mozart might sound boring now, but at the time it was new and innovative. All of the composers f
          • Sorry, sorry, Britney was a very poor choice of analogy. I should have chosen someone with actual musical talent, like you did! I didn't realise that Beethoven was an early adopter of the musical profession, that's very interesting!

            However, I'm afraid I still don't quite understand how it is that Mozart is supposed to have this magic quality and no other music works... what about Bach? If it's structure and innovation that is required, surely JSB has it in spades. Needless to say I'm not trying to find fa

        • you are right, there is less rigid structure, but I guess in my mind, Baroque music is very mathematical... I can't explain why it feels that way, but it does.

          Once you start loosening the structure, it becomes non-math... just like the original pentium, where 2+2=5 for very large values of 2 :)
          • It's true, Baroque music is indeed more mathematical than later, especially romantic, music. Although, my pianist flatmate says that strictly speaking, Mozart is known as a 'Classical' composer rather than as a Baroque one... JSB is Baroque. Unfortunately I get confused very easily between using terms like Baroque to describe a composer's style and using them to describe the period they were around in!
    • I am beginning to get very fed up with idiots with mod points marking serious posts as 'troll'. Try reading the rest of the discussion below, then tell me I'm a troll? Morons.
  • I've found that the way I improvise has a lot to do with what I listen to on the way to a gig. This was most wonderfully illustrated one day when I was listening to some really abstract jazz (Coltrane, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers) before playing a gig that was predominantly rock and blues. I had a lot of fun playing my solos that night, but the audience didn't want to hear whole-tone scales and half-step transpositions during a Rolling Stones song.

    The moral of the story - get your head into the style you'll be play
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm reading so many comments about the way listening to Mozart may affect genetic expression or the firing of neurons, etc., and it's seems fairly obvious that the spiritual side is being left out of this discussion. For those who don't believe in Creation, there is still the classical definition of the soul of man (gender inclusive) - see Aristotle.

    The point to be taken is that the physical and spiritual are tightly integrated in human being, such that an influence on one necessarily affects the other.

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