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How Does Music Affect Intellect?

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Bobby Chang

English 1102 Warwick

April 27, 2002

How does music affect one's intellect?

Music is said to affect the intellect of humans in several different ways. Specifically, it is said to affect infants more than any other age group. Music can improve learning skills, test taking skills, concentration, heartbeat, and relaxation. Music has been proven to offer several benefits for infants, young children, young adults, as well as for adults.

With all of this in mind, how can one connect music with intellect? Many recent research studies focus on theoretically proving the way in which music improves cognitive thinking. These studies show that early learning experiences determine which neurons will connect with other neurons and which ones will die off. Connections between neurons (synaptic connections) are largely related to adult intelligence. They increase at the fastest rate during the first six years of a human life. Music training is said to develop synaptic connections that are related to abstract thought. For this reason, the number of music lessons given at ages six and younger are dramatically increasing.

The right hemisphere of a human brain serves to process information in a spontaneous or intuitive way.

For example, the way in which a person responds to the art of music is a form of an intuitive process of thinking. The left hemisphere of a human brain functions to process information in a linear or sequential way. Learning subjects such as Math or English are prime examples of this process. After using a brain scanning technique, scientists discovered that musicians had a 25% enlargement in the area of response in the right side of the brain. This enlargement was greater for musicians who began studying music at young ages. New born babies tend to use the right hemisphere before the left; they react to pitch and visual changes instantly before reacting to counting or words. Therefore, babies are exposed to music and rhymes.

Infants and adults respond to music in similar ways. Infants and adults were tested in order to examine any possible relationship between each group's reaction upon hearing music. During the experiment, infants were found to immediately turn their heads towards the music when any was presented. Similarly, when the test was given to adults, they responded in the same manner. These tests show that the patterns of responses in both babies and adults are the same, concluding that the human brain reacts to pitch changes regardless of age.

Besides being beneficial for infants, music is quite advantageous to many adolescents, especially to those with learning deficiencies. Children with severe learning deficiencies can benefit from constant music exposure. A study was done on a seven-year-old girl with an autistic condition, which caused her to use gestures and occasional words instead of full sentences. After enrolling in a program that inter-related piano playing with speaking, the young girl's speaking ability improved remarkably.

Alhough music is significantly valuable for children with learning disabilities, it still has many benefits to those adolescents with average cognitive capabilities. In 1994, scientists conducted an experiment using three groups of preschoolers. One group received private piano and keyboard lessons; the second group received private computer lessons; and the third group received no training at all. After four months, the children who received piano and keyboard lessons scored 34% higher on abstract reasoning tests than the other pupils. This test reinforces the idea that music can have a great impact on the intelligence of adolescents.

Music also offers several advantages for college students. College students were given standard tests of reasoning and were exposed to three different types of music, each for a span of ten minutes. The research showed that the performance of the students improved after listening to the music of Mozart. Scientists believe the improvements were due to the structure of Mozart's music, which aided the students' cognitive processing.

In 1993, a physicist named Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher, a professional cellist and expert in cognitive development, initiated the idea of the Mozart Effect. Both were from the University of California at Irvine, and they designed an experiment to prove that listening to Mozart's music has a positive effect on the human brain. The subjects used in their study were college students; these students listened to ten minutes of

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