The ‘Mozart effect’ phenomenon was first suggested by a scientific study published in 1993 in the respected journal Science. It showed that teenagers who listened to Mozart’s 1781 Sonata for Two Pianos in D major performed better in reasoning tests than adolescents who listened to something else or who had been in a silent room. The study (which did not look at the effect of Mozart on babies) found that college students who listened to a Mozart sonata for a few minutes before taking a test that measured spatial relationship skills did better than students who took the test after listening to another musician or no music at all. The finding, by a group at the University of California whose study involved only 36 students, led creches in America to start playing classical music to children and the southern US state of Georgia even gave newborns a free classical CD.

But there has been debate since about whether the effect exists. A report, published in the journal Pediatrics, said it was unclear whether the original study in 1993 has detected a “Mozart effect” or a potential benefit of music in general. But they said a previous study of adults with seizures found that compositions by Mozart, rather than other classical composers, appeared to lower seizure frequency. Lubetzky’s team said it was possible that the proposed Mozart effect on the brain is related to the structure of his compositions as Mozart’s music tends to repeat the melodic line more frequently. In more condemning evidence, a team from Vienna University’s Faculty of Psychology analysed all studies since 1993 that have sought to reproduce the Mozart effect and found no proof of the phenomenon’s existence. In all they looked at 3,000 individuals in 40 studies conducted around the world. Jakob Pietschnig, who led the study, said “I recommend everyone listen to Mozart, but it’s not going to improve cognitive abilities as some people hope,”. A study in Nature in 1999 by Christopher Chabris, a psychologist, adding up the results of 16 studies on the Mozart effect, found only a one and a half point increase in IQ and any improvements in spatial ability limited solely to a paper-folding task.

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