Music can’t make intelligence soar: Study

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Nation, Current Affairs

Harvard experts trash the notion that claims music improved intelligence and cognitive abilities in children.

Hyderabad: Mozart can’t help you with that homework, scientists at Harvard have determined. A team of experts from the University have trashed the popular notion which claimed that music, in general, improved intelligence and cognitive abilities in young children.    

The study also proves at least 80 per cent of Americans wrong and altogether dismisses the highly-debated, 'Mozart effect'.

“More than 80 per cent of American adults think that music improves children’s grades or intelligence,” said Samuel Mehr, a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He is also working in the lab of Marshall L. Berkman and Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke.

“Even in the scientific community, there’s a general belief that music is important for these extrinsic reasons,  but there is very little evidence supporting the idea that music classes enhance children’s cognitive development,” Mehr said.

The notion that music training can make someone smarter, Mehr said, can largely be traced to a single study published in a journal called Nature.

In it, researchers identified what they called the 'Mozart effect'- after listening to music, test subjects performed better on spatial tasks.

Though the study was later debunked, the notion that simply listening to music could make someone smarter became firmly embedded in the public imagination.

Though dozens of studies have explored whether and how music and cognitive skills might be connected, when Mehr and colleagues reviewed the literature they found just five studies that used randomised trials.

Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously positive effect, and it was so small- just a 2.7 point increase in IQ after a year of music lessons that it was barely enough to be statistically significant.

To explore the connection between music and cognition, researchers recruited 29 parents and four-year-old kids.

After initial vocabulary tests for the children and music aptitude tests for the parents, each were randomly assigned to one of two classes- one where they would receive music training, or another that focused on visual arts.

Among the key changes Mehr and colleagues made from earlier studies were controlling for the effect of different teachers unlike other studies, Mehr taught both music and visual arts classes and using assessment tools designed to test four specific areas of cognition, vocabulary, mathematics, and two spatial tasks.

The study’s results, however, showed no evidence for cognitive benefits of music training.

To replicate the effect, Mehr and colleagues designed a second study that recruited more participants, 45 parents and children, half of whom received music training, and half who received no training.

Just as in the first study, Mehr said, there was no evidence that music training offered any cognitive benefit. The studies are described in the journal PLOS ONE.

Next: City enthusiasts prefer goa festival


City enthusiasts prefer goa festival

Hyderabad: The Sunburn Festival might be coming to the city in February next year, but it seems the Electronic Dance Music enthusiasts in the city want to have double the fun. Music lovers are already gearing up for the famed festival to be held from December 27 to December 29 at Vagator village in North Goa this year.

The area for Sunburn 2013 is also said to be much bigger than in the previous years. Organisers said that the festival would have the largest single stage with nearly 120 artistes performing. Music lovers from the city are thrilled by the bigger scale of the music festival.

D Vishnu, an advertising professional, said, “Sunburn is coming to Hyderabad and other cities as well, but the original is always the original. I wouldn’t want to miss it.”

The organisers of the Sunburn Festival said this year will have people arriving from as many as 36 different countries.

They said they are expecting attendance from countries like Spain, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Australia and the United States among others.

“I am planning to go this year for the first time. And I am thrilled from what I hear about the Sunburn,” P. Mayuukh, a student, said.

Next: Soothing music, a hit in city labour rooms

Soothing music, a hit in city labour rooms

HyderabadOld Telugu and Hindi songs are a big hit in labour rooms of corporate hospitals, while soft instrumental music is preferred in Intensive Care Units.

Doctors believe that music therapy reduces blood pressure and helps  bring down a patient’s anxiety level.

In the labour rooms too, music soothes the expectant mother by diverting her attention and most hospitals have music playing in labour rooms.

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Dr Manjula of Beams Hospital said, “The therapy does work on patients. Mostly on those who to listen to music on their phones regularly. 

Patients are asked whether they would like to opt for it. We do have a music system in the labour room and most opt for old Hindi or Telugu songs. It diverts their attention from pain and that is what helps.”

Doctors at Care Hospital, Nampally, also believe in the therapy of music while performing angiograms. Dr S. Vijay Mohan of Care Hospitals said, “We have made it a point to ask our patients whenever we take them for angiograms what kind of music they would prefer. Some of them are shocked, but it is found to work well as they tend to get relaxed and that’s the first step towards getting a good response during the procedure.”

Doctors believing in music therapy in fact have got together and formed a “Medi-Melody” group for their own relaxation.

Experts also say that the therapy has even worked on patients in coma and those on life-support systems.

Dr K. Narsimulu of Kamineni Hospitals said, “There have been eye movements in patients when they have been made to listen to music via earphones.

There is an impact and its effect can’t be ruled out. Along with traditional methods of treatment, the therapy of music is an effective mechanism.”