Sunday, August 31, 2008

Music and the Mind

from Take Two CDs and Call Me in the Morning
by Suzanne Jonas, Ed.D.

Aural Development and Music Brain Research
In his research on the human brain, Harvard scientist Howard Gardner concluded that it is the musical/sound portion of the child's cognition that develops first, and that it is an important area to stimulate fully, since succeeding areas to be developed build upon the aural center. Music educators in England have long emphasized aural development in their schools. They realize that as the child develops various forms of thinking --- reasoning, intuition, creativity, memorization, and judgment --- these are accompanied by auditory perception. This becomes the foundation for later work in verbal language, and then reading and writing. Their emphasis in the early years, therefore, is to develop greater auditory perception. By listening to sounds and observing what goes on around them, children learn to express what they hear, see, and feel. They will then write and speak clearly and develop various kinds of thinking such as linear, spatial, musical, or verbal more easily.

The Mozart Effect
At the 1994 American Psychological Assn. convention, a University of California research team reported that their music listening experiments with preschool children demonstrated a causal link between music and spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning tasks involve the orientation of shapes in space. Such tasks are relevant to a wide range of endeavors, from higher mathematics and geometry to architecture, engineering, drawing and playing chess. The group of three year olds received eight months of special music training consisting of daily group singing lessons, weekly private lessons on electronic keyboards and daily keyboard practice and play. Scores on a spatial reasoning task improved dramatically after the music lessons. Other research also points to the advanced abilities of students who take music lessons. They tend to exceed the national average SAT scores by 51 points on verbal, and 39 on math.
The U.C. researchers also reported on an effect with 12 college undergraduates who listened to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D for 10 minutes and then had to solve visual puzzles. The important subtest of the Stanford-Binet Test was a paper folding and cutting task. The subjects had to imagine that a single sheet of paper has been folded several times and then various cut outs are made with a scissors. The task is to correctly predict the pattern of cut-outs when the paper was unfolded. Those students who listened to Mozart scored an average of 8 points higher than control groups who were given relaxation instructions or simply sat in silence. The press immediately proclaimed that Mozart made you smarter and it became known as the Mozart Effect. Two critical and highly limiting factors were generally ignored: first, that the effects were not on general intelligence but only for a test of spatial abilities; and second, the effects lasted only a few minutes! Since that time, there have been many research studies focusing on this Mozart effect with the result that there is no agreement about whether or not the Mozart Effect is genuine.7
Over the years, various other curious Mozart research anecdotes have surfaced: cows serenaded with Mozart give more milk; Mozart string quartets played in the city squares in Edmonton, Canada decrease drug dealings; and in northern Japan, Ohara Brewery finds that Mozart makes the best sake. Apparently the density of the yeast used for brewing increases by a factor of ten.
Mozart’s music scores another hit in the research arena with the following story published in The Institute of HeartMath’s Spring 2004 newsletter8.

“High school student David Merrell examined the effects of music on mice running through a maze. Would they learn to navigate faster with a specific kind of music? Before the mice began their listening regimen, David ran each of them through the maze to establish a base time of about 10 minutes. Then he started piping in the music.
For ten hours a day, one group heard classical and a second group heard hard rock. A third group heard no music at all. David put each mouse through the maze three times a week for three weeks. At the end of that time, the mice that had heard no music had managed to cut their time in half, averaging five minutes to complete the maze, simply as a result of regular practice. The mice that had listened to Mozart averaged an impressive one and a half minutes. For the mice that had listened to hard rock, navigating the maze had become more difficult and their original average time tripled to a staggering 30 minutes! Also worthy of note is the fact that David had tried to conduct a similar experiment the previous year, but cut it short when the hard rock mice killed each other off. “
Harvard University’s Institute of Music and Brain Science is also conducting research on music’s ability to affect the body.

Super Learning
Many other informal studies continue to point to the usefulness of Baroque and Mozart's music to heighten abstract reasoning, comprehension, retention, and performance. For decades, researchers in Bulgaria have been using baroque music in their learning research. Headed by Dr. Lazimov9, the studies find that Baroque music with high pitches and 60 beats per minute tempo has the greatest effect in energizing the brain which in turn increases learning. The music of that period (see Appendix E for a further description) creates a relaxed state that lowers blood pressure, synchronizes heartbeat and brain waves to slower, more efficient rhythms, and promotes hemisphericity --- the synchronization of the right and left hemispheres. In this country, Ostrander and Schroeder have incorporated these findings into a program called Super Learning 7. Using rhythm, breathing, and music, they have found learning accelerates, memory expands, and all is done in a fun atmosphere. CDs for use in the classroom cover arithmetic, vocabulary, math, languages, and provide background music for use during any cognitive activity. (See

Hemisphere Synchronization
The two hemispheres of the brain, right and left, perform different functions for us. The qualities of the left hemisphere are rational, logical, linear, analytical, and organized, and its some of its tasks include speech production and math calculation. The qualities of the right hemisphere are holistic rather than analytical; it is intuitive and metaphoric, and is involved in aesthetic perception, recognizing patterns, and emotions.

Left Hemisphere Right Hemisphere
Logical Creative
Analytical Synthesizing
Mathematical Artistic
Technical Holistic
Problem Solving Conceptualizing
Controlled Interpersonal
Conservative Emotional
Planning Musical
Organizational Spiritual
Administrative Verbal
Sequential Expressive
Procedural Experiential

While the left hemisphere sorts through incoming information in a reductive manner, i.e., systematically considers every variable to find the best answer, the right hemisphere synthesizes information received--it arranges elements into a complete whole.
Many people develop one side of the brain to a greater degree than the other; this is known as 'straight dominance'. A left dominant person is a linear thinker, good with words but not much involved with the substance behind the words. Such people are good with specifics, remembering names, and critical thinking. People with a left brain dominance make good engineers, computer programmers, medical doctors, lawyers, critics, administrators, bookkeepers, and planners. Right brain dominant people are typically vague, diffuse, poetic, intuitive, good in aesthetic matters, but they have difficulty in getting down to specifics or in 'putting two and two together'. These people make good artists, psychologists, philosophers, writers, musicians, social workers, and policy makers. Although it is obvious that neither extreme is desirable, our society has been geared toward developing left hemisphere abilities, neglecting important right hemisphere operations. These are the first subjects 'to go' in school budget cuts: music, art, physical education, and audio-visual supplies. According to the cutter, the reason 'Johnny can't read' or do his math is that not enough emphasis is put on 'the basics' --left brain activities. In fact, the situation is just the opposite: not enough stimulation of the synthesizing, experiencing, poetic side--the right hemisphere. This is the part of the brain that is naturally used in the creative arts. Teachers and researchers keep reporting that kids learn better and faster when they: 1) experience what they are learning; 2) are having fun; and 3) have as many of their senses stimulated as possible.
Estimates vary, but there is agreement among brain researchers that humans use only a small portion of their mental capacity--from 10-13%. The obvious question arising from this observation and the known facts about holistic learning is: how can we tap some, or all, of that unused potential?

Exploring the concept of hemisphericity by applying scientific brain-wave theories, the late Robert Monroe patented a synthesizer that brings the brain's hemisphere into synchronization. (This process is described in detail in Chapter 7). This system is based on the discovery that optimal learning takes place when the individual is in a certain state of consciousness--when the brain waves being generated are at a particular frequency. This optimal learning state has been established as the theta state, when the brain waves are cycling at 4-7 Hz. and when combined with Hemi-Sync signals, learning takes place quickly and easily. (See more at Reports from the Monroe Institute indicate a significant increase in learning and right brain attributes of cooperation, happiness, and general well-being. There are several CDs designed specifically to assist learning that contain these signals. (See Appendix A).

Recommendations for Music Assisted Learning
From the above cited research and other sources, it is clear that to use music successfully while studying, concentrating, and learning, certain conditions must be maintained. While doing cognitive work, each of the elements described in Chapter 1 must have particular characteristics.

Beat - Use music of 60-72 bpm
Rhythm - music should have simple, unchanging rhythm
Melody - strong, simple melody
Harmony - simple and unchanging
Timbre - strings, flute, piano, solo instruments with orchestra

The Baroque era in music contains a wealth of music that is suitable for this. Also good is the music of Mozart (second movements of concertos), Handel, Corelli, and others as listed in Appendix A under Cognitive Work. The Lind Institute has two CDs: Classical Harmonies* and Classical Melodies, that incorporate all the appropriate elements. There are several Hemi-sync CDs that are also specifically programmed for learning: Remembrance, Baroque Gardens, and Concentration work well*.

ADD/ADHD is defined as distractibility, impulsiveness, inattentiveness, absentmindedness, intrusiveness, talkativeness, and restlessness. There are many factors contributing to these symptoms including inadequate diets, toxins, thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies and allergies. It would be very beneficial to begin eliminating all wheat, sugar, dairy, and red and blue dyes from the diet of those with ADD/ADHD. Wearing orange tinted glasses makes focus and concentration easier when reading.
An ADD/ADHD* CD has been programmed with frequencies (tones) that are beneficial for all children but especially for those who have been diagnosed, whether on medication or not. Listening to these tones will begin to heal damage from medication and will increase the concentration levels of adults and children. The Hemi-sync CD Remembrance* is an extremely interesting CD to use with this population. All of the teachers who have followed my recommendation to play this in their classrooms have reported back to me that the children almost immediately became settled, at least less restless, and able to focus in on their work. One teacher reported that in subsequent days if she forgot to play the CD, the students would either ask her to or put it on themselves. Barry Osser’s ‘So’ Chord*, also containing hemi-sync signals, is also a good background CD as it provides a beautiful supportive sound for classrooms, home, and anywhere a calm and focused environment is desired.

The number of children with autism has grown substantially in the last 50 years. Autism has been associated with toxins, vaccines, and heredity. There appears to be a breakdown of the patterning in some of the chromosomes.
A CD for Autism* containing frequencies (tones, not music) has been programmed to stimulate the brain at the subatomic level which may lead to greater awareness and coping abilities. The tones will also assist in relaxing muscles, balancing the hemispheres, and releasing tension. Individuals may be able to express themselves better and evolve with appropriate external stimulation after repeated listenings. Also recommended are two Hemi-sync CDs: Remembrance* and ‘So’ Chord*

* Available from

1Kenny, C.B. The Myth Artery: The Magic of Music Therapy. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview Publishing Co. 1982.
2Hevner, K. “The Affective Characteristics of certain Elements of Musical Form.” Psychological Bulletin:31, 678-679. 1934.
3Gatewood, Esther. “An Experimental study of the Nature of Musical Enjoyment.” in Schoen, Max (ed). The Effects of Music. N.Y.:Harcourt, Brace & Co. , Inc. 1927.
4Altshuler, I. “Music as a Therapeutic Agent.” in Schullian, D. and Schoen, M. (Eds). Music and Medicine. N.Y.: H.Schuman, Inc. 1948.
5Shatin, l. “Alteration of Mood via Music.” Journal of Psychology: 75, 81-86. 1970.
6Shallcross, Doris. Teaching Creative Behavior. 1984.
7Weinberger, N.M. The ‘Mozart Effect’: A Small Part of the Big Picture”. MuSICA Research Notes: Vol. VII, 11, Winter 2000.
8Instutite of HeartMath ,
9Ostrander & Schroeder. SuperLearning 2000


At 7:39 PM, Blogger DR L said...

Thanks for the great article. I am recommending it to my readers at

We're all about high performance and obviously, so are you!

Thank you, DRL


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