Popular culture has always depicted a definitive link between intellect and classical music. Movies and television shows of all kinds have conditioned audiences to associate the appreciation of classical composers with intelligent, educated and sophisticated individuals.
Beyond just a social reference, however, recent scientific studies have shown the connections between our mind and music. Often referred to as the “Mozart Effect,” studies have demonstrated that exposure to classical music can have beneficial effects on certain parts of the human brain. This has led many parents to consider exposing their children to classical music at a very young age.
While there’s no guarantee that playing classical music for your baby will turn him or her into a musical genius, here are four reasons why “Symphony No. 4” might be a better naptime choice than “Old McDonald”:
Mozart’s Music Stimulates the Brain
The earliest studies on the effects of classical music on the human brain dealt with adults. Tests conducted over a course of several years determined that listening to classical music can temporarily improve an adult’s spatial reasoning skills, i.e. the ability to visualize with the “mind’s eye.” Those who listened to classical music could often solve puzzles faster and draw or sketch objects easily and more accurately.
It was eventually found that the parts of our brain that interpret complex musical stimuli are the same as those used for spatial reasoning. When we are exposed to music like that of Mozart, the intertwining lines of music and harmonies effectively “turn on” a visual section of our brain that allows us to think more three-dimensionally. While this result is impressive enough, the “Mozart Effect” really gets interesting when applied to children.
Mozart’s Music “Primes” a Child’s Brain
In its early developmental stages, the human brain is like a giant sponge waiting to soak up stimuli. Inside every infant’s brain are billions of cells and neurons that – upon encountering visual, tactile or auditory stimuli – begin to build various connections. The number and strength of these connections is directly linked to specific factors that influence intelligence and creativity.
As one would expect, a more complex stimuli creates a more complex neural connection – hence the reason why classical music exemplifies the effect. This is because, from an auditory standpoint, classical music is about as complex as it gets. While rock, jazz and other forms of music are just as capable of positively stimulating a child’s mind, classical music features a variety of instruments and sound ranges that simply cannot be replicated by other genres.
Mozart, in particular, is held in high regard by composers and musicians alike, which is why th the theory is named after him. Experts point to the noticeable “purity” and “childlike qualities” of Mozart’s music; elements that somehow complement the underlying complexity and diversity of his compositions.
Exposure to Mozart’s Music May Encourage a Child to Play an Instrument
Studies show that infants exposed to Mozart often develop both conscious and subconscious appreciation and interest in music. These children are much more likely to begin playing an instrument at a young age, which is where the real cognitive benefits of musical exposure become apparent. Studies indicate that musical training can have a more permanent effect on an individual’s spatial reasoning than simply listening to music could ever have. In one study, children who took piano lessons for six months were shown to have improved ability to complete puzzles and solve other spatial tasks by as much as 30%!
Mozart’s Music is a Beautiful Introduction to Creativity
Even without all of the evidence that classical music can positively affect a child’s mental development, the inspirational effects Mozart’s music can have on a child are undeniable. A child who enjoys listening or playing classical music is likely to nurture that appreciation throughout his or her life. A deep appreciation for Mozart may just inspire your child to become a “Mozart” himself – or maybe something even greater!
Even if listening to Mozart doesn’t turn your child into a baby genius, it will definitely help him or her turn into a well-rounded, educated adult with an ear for talent.
Amanda Williams is a blogger for TakeLessons. Since 2006, TakeLessons has provided safe, affordable and fun singing and music lessons to students of all ages. Students can find music teachers in over 2,800 cities nationwide, for 38 different types of lessons.