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In a nutshell: The Mozart effect is a boost in intelligence that comes from listening to Mozart. The science doesn't support the boost, though listening to Mozart hasn't harmed anybody as far as we know.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was one of the world's greatest composers of classical music. He began writing music and performing on the keyboard and violin when he was five years old. He wrote over 600 musical pieces. For many people, one of the great joys in life is listening to Mozart's music in concert halls or on an iPod. But the wonderful feeling that comes from listening to Mozart isn't what is meant by the Mozart effect.

Mozart performing as a childSome people claim that the brain grows faster and better in children under age 3 when they listen to Mozart. Sadly, the scientific evidence does not support the idea that listening to Mozart at any age increases brain development in any special way.

Even though the Mozart effect is not supported by the science, many people want to believe it is true. Many parents want their children to grow up as smart as they can be. If someone says that listening to Mozart will make their kid smarter, many parents will start buying Mozart recordings.

After hearing about the Mozart effect in news stories, the governors of Tennessee and Georgia started programs that gave a Mozart CD to every newborn in their states. Florida's legislature passed a law requiring that classical music be played daily in state-funded childcare and educational programs. These gifts were not based on solid research that classical music increases a child's intelligence.

Some stories about the Mozart effect got blown out of proportion and soon there were claims that listening to classical music could help heal all kinds of aches and pains. Hundreds of hospitals were given free CDs of classical music in May of 1999 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Foundation. These gifts were not based on solid research that classical music increases the healing process.

I think most of us know that listening to music we like can put us in a good mood. That should be reason enough to listen to music. It would be nice if listening to music could make us smarter and healthier. Some music can help us relax and that's good for our health. Many people wish that something as simple as playing a CD would make their children more intelligent. Sadly, the science doesn't support their wish.

Last updated 24-Aug-2011

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