Does music make you smarter? What the science says about learning/playing an instrument (Mozart Effect and all)

By Ugo Onwutalu

It has often been said in various promotional material, media and popular culture that learning a musical instrument and listening to music has numerous benefits amongst which are the increase in memory, learning capacity, overall intelligence and emotional well-being. This reminds me of the Mozart Effect  popularised years ago as being the way to help babies and young children develop more musical interest. Well now the science (it appears) proves this. See below:

Image courtesy of Music Makes You Smarter Infographic

Music has of course been researched many times before to see if it has real benefits. The April 2001 edition of Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine assessed the possible health benefits of the music of Mozart. However, previously in 1999 two teams of researchers challenged the existence of the Mozart effect by publishing a pair of papers together under the title “Prelude or Requiem for the ‘Mozart Effect’?” reporting that “any cognitive enhancement is small and does not reflect any change in IQ or reasoning ability in general, but instead derives entirely from performance on one specific type of cognitive task and has a simple neuropsychological explanation”, called “enjoyment arousal”

What do you think? Is there a true link between  playing Beethoven/Mozart on the piano/Linkin park on the guitar etc and your brainpower? I feel there is some truth regarding its cognitive effect (mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions ), but by how much it’s unclear.

One thought on “Does music make you smarter? What the science says about learning/playing an instrument (Mozart Effect and all)”

  1. Hi there Please read my blog 'Does music make you smarter debate' which can be found at
    I enjoyed your summarising of the findings of well I am not sure who has made the research but it looks convincing to me.
    My blog however takes the work of neuroscience and of educationalists.
    There is not a lot of room on this comment box to put all that I found in my scanning of the net about this matter. But Educationalist Wendy Harris has looked at work done in the field in the USA and it would seem that neuroscientists have found that with people who perform music, the membrane that connects the left and right hemispheres in the brain is thickened thereby the interaction between those parts of the brain is heightened.Donald A Hodges Covington Distinguished Professor of Music Education and director of he Music Research Institute of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has demonstrated that music activity takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain and activity occurs with equal vigour on the left rational hemisphere. Music is both emotional and intellectual activity.Harris states that Hodges is notable for stating that music does not make a person smarter but continues to state that in 1993 experiments claimed that listening to a Mozart Sonata would make your IQ increase by eight points. She continues outlining that through subsequent work Hodges explained 'proved that such listening would sharpen a subjects spatial-temporal relationships momentarily.After a short while, the subject would go back to being just as smart as before or dumb.A rich environment makes a difference.The slogan was Use it or Lose it (referring to the brain)The more education you have the more interconnections in the brain.Patricia De Courcy Co-ordinator of Lawrence University Early Children's Music Programme in Appleton was aware that over a number of years that with the introduction of music to children many areas of the brain were benefitting the mathematical and language centres.She continues stating that during music performance there is no activity in the front lobe where conscious thought takes place. In other words performance is not a thinking activity. All the thinking takes place earlier. As I have also said in my blog that practise ideally is like being in ones personal laboratory where fingering;interpretation and many other matters relating to the performance of the music are firstly considered,thought out and worked through in practise.
    Performance can be seen as being similar to the activity of a highly trained athlete. William Bruce has stated that musicians are small muscle athletes.In a nutshell:
    It certainly shows that music creates activity in both brain hemispheres and that in turn stimulates the mathematical and language centres I have not yet stated Wendy Harris's findings showed that children that leave their classrooms for music lessons are more than capable of keeping up with their class work it has been proven, in the same paper Wendy Harris notes that USA medical students with the top marks in their exams all had some musical ability.I hope that I have not written too much but I hope that you will be encouraged to read my blog in full and any others that you might find interesting.

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