This week felt like an appropriate time to talk about Classical female composers. Since Western music is historically dominated by men, we generally just talk about famous Classical men.
In today’s episode, I want to talk about the health benefits of Mozart specifically – not Haydn, or Beethoven, or Bach, or any of those guys. Only the health benefits of Mozart.
I do a lot of nutrition and health research as it’s something I’m passionate about, and I recently stumbled upon some really cool studies regarding Mozart and health. It inspired me to dig deeper and see what science has been saying about Mozart for the last few decades.
I thought you guys might be interested in the result of these studies – I sure was.
There are all kinds of studies regarding music and health, so if you enjoy this topic, let me know and I can do more videos like this in the future.
So let’s get into it!
Health Benefits of Mozart: Latex Allergies
A really fascinating study was done on people with an allergy to latex. Basically, people with latex allergies were exposed to latex on their skin, where they would proceed to get an allergic rash.
When these people were listening to Mozart and then exposed to latex, their skin produced less of an allergic reaction.
Perhaps more interestingly, Beethoven (and Schubert, Haydn or Brahms), didn’t have any effect at all. There’s something specific to Mozart’s music that is potentially helpful in allergic diseases.
Health benefits of Mozart: Pre-term babies
Is that not incredibly interesting?
After learning about that, I decided to do more research into “The Mozart Effect”. I came across another interesting study on pre-term babies.
Basically, Mozart was played to babies who were born prematurely, which basically helped them gain more weight and grow faster – which is obviously important for very small babies.
Researchers wanted to see if the same effect could be observed with another popular musician, Bach – but Bach didn’t seem to help at all.
Health benefits of Mozart: Epileptic children
After finding these studies, it seemed evident that there’s something specific to Mozart’s music that’s beneficial, so I kept digging.
It seems that Mozart might also be useful for children with epilepsy, according to this article:
Another study on children with epilepsy showed similar results.
More general studies on the health benefits of Mozart
So if you’re allergic to latex, are a pre-term baby, or are a child with epilepsy, there’s something special about Mozart that might be helpful to you. But what about the rest of us?
We often hear tidbits like how Classical music is good for the brain, but at the very least, Mozart won’t make you score higher on a math exam.
This study showed that listening to Bach or Mozart didn’t make any difference when undergrads wrote a standard math test.
The Mozart Effect
In the 90s, there was a very famous study that talked about “The Mozart Effect”, showing that people’s IQs were raised 8-9 points when listening to 10 minutes of Mozart. This was compared to complete silence, and listening to relaxing instructions.
This results of this study have not been replicated, indicating that there’s a faulty aspect to it. It’s thought that perhaps comparing the very stimulating music of Mozart to complete silence is like comparing apples to oranges.
As in the previous study, when Mozart and Bach are pitted against each other, no boost in math skills is achieved, so it could just be the stimulating aspect of music that is helpful, as opposed to Mozart specifically.
Other studies seem to confirm that when it comes to music and the brain, it’s not Mozart specifically that provides the boost.
Interestingly, though listening to music only seems to offer benefit in the moment but not afterward, music lessons in childhood seem to boost overall intelligence throughout life.
Mozart and relaxation
However, there are some promising studies in regards to Mozart and relaxation:
Most of us are already personally familiar with music’s ability to relax us and relieve us of anxiety and worry. When pitted against new age music, and no music at all, Mozart had the greatest impact on improving our feelings of physical relaxation, ease/peace, and mental quiet.
Mozart and depression
Mozart’s music also seems to be of benefit to people with depression:
Listening to Mozart boosts dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn reduces depression levels.
Listening to Mozart also boosts BDNF, which is a protein that is important for long-term memory. Aside from reducing depression, Mozart can also potentially help us repair brain cells and neurons, which is all very exciting news.
Mozart and Roatation tasks
Mozart’s music also seems to boost our ability to do special rotation tasks, which, if you’ve ever done an IQ test, look like this:
To summarize, it seems like there are plenty of health benefits of Mozart, though there is still much more research needed in this field.
In 50 years we might have a better idea on why Mozart helps allergies but not Brahms, but for now, we can rest assured knowing that by learning Mozart in music lessons, and by listening to his music, we’re boosting our memory, special rotation and overall cognition – at least temporarily.
There is probably much, much more going on in our brains and bodies when we play and listen to music, and it’s exciting to keep up with the science to see what’s discovered next.
Until next time!
Today’s video is a quick compilation of my favorite grade 1 piano pieces. I play through some short clips of various grade 1 songs in the RCM syllabus, and show what books the music comes from.
I’ve done a video on my favorite grade 1 books, and some of these books are included in that list.
There’s also a page on this website that tours you through a series of grade 1 lessons if that’s something you’re interested in.
Let’s get started with my favorite grade 1 piano pieces!