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Sound Therapy, Music Therapy, or Melotherapy - Music and Cognitive Development

Updated on September 17, 2014

There is a strong connection between tones or sounds, ordered or not into a musical piece, the human brain, and the emotions. Maybe less notorious is that music influences humans not only psychologically and cognitively, but also affects their physical pain, healing, and other physiological aspects.

Although there is some evidence of the amazing healing properties of music, the scientists do not entirely agree on the subject.

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy vs Sound Therapy

Music Therapy is the use of music interventions to achieve a remedial objective within the therapeutic act. Melotherapy is another term to describe Music Therapy, its etiology being traced to the two Greek words meloidia and therapeia.Research studies have proved that music, simple sounds out of the context of a music structure, or simple conversation can improve mood, physiological functions, and emotions. The sounds can be just nature sounds, such as the sound of waves, a spring, wind, etc, electronically synthesized sounds, or special designed instruments, or voice sounds, such as sounds in church or in temples. Music therapy and sound therapy are very similar, they work based on the same concept, that sound spectrum vibrations affect profoundly the human body at all levels.

Music Reduces the Pain and Relaxes

Music is more important in our lives than we think, and its effects on human body more complex than known. In Antiquity the flute was used to alleviate lumbago pain by playing it near the affected zone. The analgesic effect of music is used with great results in Gynecology, and more recently in surgery. The most effective for pain reducing is your favorite music. The best music for relaxation is the classical music, the classics like Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Bach are great, but the baroque music has the best results.

Mozart: Piano Sonatas Box Set

Music and Cognitive Processes

Music Stimulates Memory and Learning and Stimulates the Brain’s Tasks and Activity

Any type of music can activate the brain’s activity, as long as the listener enjoys it. The favorite music has a tonic action on the mental processes, allowing an individual to access more of the brain’s capacity. However, Mozart’s music, and baroque music in general is the best music to enhance the brain’s activity and functioning.

Music can affect positively almost any aspect of our mental and emotional activity and development, some of the most discussed are:

  • Speeds up and facilitates the learning process
  • Reduces errors in job and school related tasks
  • Improves the scores to tests, (better focus and clearer mind)
  • Calms hyperactive children and adults, (if the right music is chosen)
  • Helps body’s healing processes
  • It is a good analgesic
  • Raises IQ scores, (this is a temporary effect, correlated with the above)

The Mozart Effect

Does Mozart Make Babies Smarter?

Scientific research, has established strong connections between the performance on certain tasks and Mozart's music. The research has proved the theory that Mozart's music improves the performance of mental tasks. The theory hypothesized that the gain is permanent, and stated that the IQ could be improved by listening Mozart. The industry realized the potential and immediately started to popularize the research.

Don Campbell was the most notorious and enterprising author, publishing the bestseller series "The Mozart Effect", and releasing Mozart compilations. Don Campbell died at 65 from pancreatic cancer.

The Mozart Effect was first used as a term by Alfred A. Tomatis who had some positive results curing a variety of disorders. The most famous study on the Mozart Effect, which initiated the commercial enterprise and subsequent studies, was done by Rauscher, Shaw and Ky in 1993 and published in Nature, (Rauscher, Shaw and Ky). The study concludes that listening to Mozart improves cognitive processes such as spatial-temporal reasoning.

Subsequent studies have failed to replicate the results from the 1993 study.
This report shows that, although there seems to be some correlation between listening Mozart and spatial-temporal tasks performance, this is mostly attributed to personal preference: (Mozart effect study).

If you are confused already, and don't know what to think anymore, you are not alone, the academic world is many times in contradiction. I wanted to give you all the information so you can draw your own conclusions.

The Mozart Effect Video

My Thoughts about the Mozart Effect

As a personal general approach, I take any scientific studies, with a grain of salt. Many times, studies, or interpretation of the results, miss “little things”, that in the end prove to be critical for the accuracy of the report.

My personal experience with music and cognitive tasks is a positive one. I have been listening to Mozart, Bach, and selected baroque music, while writing, or doing homework, or learning from technical documentation, long before the Rauscher, Shaw and Ky’s study, and have had a positive experience with it. The music relaxes me and helps me focus better. My theory about listening to music while performing cognitive tasks is that it helps you focus by providing a relaxing sound environment that will cover the regular background noise. Little noises that we are unaware of, distract us while performing cognitive tasks, and many time we don't even realize it. How is this different from a white noise generator? I don't know why, but the white noise generator does not have the same effect on me. The white noise generator helps me disconnect, but I can still focus better on Mozart and Bach. Not all Mozart and Bach will positively affect my focus ability, in fact some musical pieces do the contrary for me, even though I enjoy the pieces.

Bach: The Art of Fugue

Bach: Art of Fugue for String Quartet
Bach: Art of Fugue for String Quartet

Bach fugues are for me the most stimulating for studying and learning technical documentation.That might work for you, or might not, it is in the end a matter of personal taste. For me, the mathematical rigor of the musical frase, and the high energy of Bach's fugues, is what stimulates me most when reading technical documentation.


Benefits of Music for Young Children Mozart Effect on Babies

Based on the research of Rauscher, Shaw and Ky, it has been hypothesized that infants exposed to Mozart will develop better cognitive skills. Many parents started their babies on intensive Mozart listening schedules. Does it work? Does Mozart make our babies and preschoolers smarter? We don’t know, there is no definite evidence, and in my opinion there no scientific way to tell if it does. The research done until now points to the fact that Music provides a boost in performing spatial-temporal reasoning, but it is only temporary, for the time of performing the task. That means, by some authors, that there is no long term benefit of using music to improve cognitive abilities. I would say that if there is short term benefit, that will translate in long term benefits. Training with Mozart will allow better training results, but constant training results will result in time in better overall performances. Sure, the scientific evidence is contradictory, and inconsistent, but who cares? There is no harm in playing classical music for your children, so why won’t you do it? Mozart is great for anyone, just play it for your child.Don’t rely solely on Mozart to make you child smarter. Children need problems to solve to develop their brain, toys are a great way to present them with problems. They need someone to talk to them, social interaction, and play partners.

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