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Under the microscope: the Mozart effect

Under the microscope this month: the Mozart effect

Under the microscope: Shutterstock

What is the Mozart effect?

It is the theory that listening to Mozart’s music can result in a short-term improvement on the performance of specific mental tasks, namely, those involving spatial-temporal reasoning. It is the reason that some expectant parents play classical music to their unborn babies.

What kind of tasks?

Spatial-temporal reasoning is the cognitive ability to picture a spatial pattern and understand how items or pieces can fit into that space. 
It is used in problem-solving and organisational skills.

What is the evidence?

While some research supports a link between prenatal sound exposure and improved brain function, scientists had not, until now, identified any structures responsible for this link in the developing brain.

What do you mean “until now”?

A new study from University of Maryland School of Medicine scientists claims to be the first to identify a mechanism that could explain an early link between sound input and cognitive function. Working with an animal model, the researchers found that a type of cell in the brain’s primary processing area during early development, long thought to have no role in transmitting sensory information, may conduct such signals after all.

What are the implications?

By identifying a source of early sensory nerve signals, the current study could lead to new ways to diagnose cognitive deficits that emerge early in development.

So what now?

The next step is to begin studying in more detail how subplate neurons affect brain development. 


Illustration | Shutterstock

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