Music & Intelligence

Music & Intelligence
There has been some scientific research in recent times to find out the relationship between music and intelligence. Even though it seems fairly obvious that music has an effect on the brain cells themselves and that listening some forms of music, especially western and Indian classical can increase intelligence, science, as always has been trying to seek a proof of this phenomenon.

University of California, Irvine, 36 people took standardized intelligence tests after three 10 minute periods of Mozart. Those who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos (K448) scored an average 119 – eight points higher than those who listened to a relaxation tape and nine points higher than those who listened to silence. Mozart’s music is quite complex and very patterned said neurobiologist Frances H Rauscher, the study’s lead author. Rauscher said the complex music may “prime” the brain for mathematics or other analytical work because it triggers the same brain activity. “We predict that music lacking complexity or which is repetitive may interfere with rather than enhance abstract reasoning,” the researchers said in the journal Nature. UPI, Deseret News Oct 14 1993 Entire study documented in Nature Vol. 365 14 October 1993.

To know more about Mozart effect, please see:

One might recall how classical Music appears to be tedious, boring or may also give one a headache. I have especially noticed how people just cant stand listening to Bach – it just gets too much to take for them.

Why does this happen? First reason might be because one is not used to listening to it; therefore, there is no identification with it as such. Secondly, this might be because the mind needs to be very attentive and swift to follow music – the sounds, the notes, the complexity of the musical architecture – and when one is listening without paying attention there is bound to be a conflict, resistance of some kind. Thirdly, probably because one is accustomed to treat music as something separate, outside of oneself.

According to Steven Gillman, a Brain researcher, Listening to, and participating in music creates new neural pathways in your brain that stimulate creativity. Studies have shown that music actually trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. Music stimulates the mind, encourages creativity and helps to lay a foundation for learning that leads to higher intelligence and aptitude.

GJ Whitrow’s quote on Einstein: “He often told me that one of the most important things in his life was music. Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”

“It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the rest of musical perception.” – Albert Einstein on his Theory of Relativity.

In recent years much discussion has surrounded the role of music in child development. Following is an article on the role of music in child development:

According to Plato: “ is a more potent instrument than any other for education…” now scientists know why. Music , they believe, trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. After eight months of musical training, 3 year olds were expert puzzle masters, scoring 80% higher than their playmates did in spatial intelligence-the ability to visualize the world accurately. This skill later translates into mathematical/conceptual and engineering skills.

Preschoolers who studied piano performed 34% better in spatial and temporal reasoning ability than preschoolers who spent the same amount of time learning to use computers. (Rauscher & Shaw. As reported in Neurological Research, February 1997)

The very best engineers and technical designers in the Silicon Valley industry are, nearly without exception, practicing musicians. (Grant Venerable, The Center for the Arts in the Basic Curricum, New York, 1989) For the unborn child, classical music, played at a rhythm of 60 beats per minute, equivalent to that of a resting human heart, provides an environment conducive to creative and intellectual development. (Dr.Thomas Veert, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child)

Researchers believe that certain types of musical actually creates new neural pathways in the brain. That means that the brain can function in a different filed than that of memory alone. After listening to classical music, adults can do certain spatial tasks more quickly, such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Why does this happen? The classical music pathways in our brain are similar to the pathways we use for spatial reasoning. When we listen to classical music, the spatial pathways are turned on and ready to be used.

The music most people call classical – works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart – is different from other kinds of music as it has a more complex musical structure. Researchers think the complexity of classical music is what primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly. So listening to classical music may have different effects on the brain than listening to other types of music.

Contributed by – Ashutosh Ghildiyal is a salaried professional based in Mumbai, India. He was born in Lucknow in 1984, where he completed his schooling. He completed his graduate studies in New Delhi and his post-graduate education in Mumbai. He is the author of To Think or Not to Think and Other stories (Book), various blogs and short stories. Email:

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