The myth of Mozart: Study shows music has no effect on epilepsy symptoms
Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major has been credited with having many positive effects, including alleviating epilepsy symptoms. But a new meta-analysis out of Vienna has concluded that there is no scientific evidence linking Mozart’s piece of music with health benefits for epileptics.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his sonata in 1781 when he was 25. The piece has three movements, but it's the first movement, allegro con spirito (literally: play lively, with spirit), that researchers have focused on, claiming it has amazing properties.
The so-called “Mozart effect” has been the topic of scientific discussion since 1993, when a research paper claimed that listening to the allegro con spirito improved performance in relation to spatial tasks such as paper-folding and solving mazes. Later studies found that any associated improvement in brain functioning was small, if it existed at all.
But that didn’t stop the media from using the results of the 1993 study, wrongly claiming that listening to Mozart increased IQ. The Mozart effect has remained a part of the public consciousness since, with claims that the music improves rats’ maze-navigating abilities and cows' milk production, and even causes bacteria in sewage plants to break down waste more efficiently. More recently, another claim has gained traction: that listening to Mozart’s sonata alleviates epilepsy symptoms.
In a new meta-analysis, researchers from the University of Vienna examined the effect of the allegro con spirito movement of Mozart’s sonata on epilepsy and related medical conditions. Further, they considered the effects of bias, the adequacy of evidential value relied upon in previous studies, and the different ways data was analyzed and presented.
Researchers comprehensively examined eight prior studies constituting a total sample size of 207 participants. After analyzing the data, they found that there was little evidence of any meaningful benefit afforded by listening to Mozart’s sonata (or any other music for that matter) on epilepsy in particular or other medically related conditions in general.
Some of the studies that formed part of the meta-analysis demonstrated an observable therapeutic effect, but it was trivial, and the evidential value of the findings was deemed to be insufficient. Some studies were found to be underpowered; that is, they did not use sufficiently large sample sizes to answer the research question being investigated. Other studies had selectively reported their data.
“Unfounded authority, underpowered studies, and non-transparent reporting appear to be the main drivers of the Mozart effect myth,” said researchers Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig.
This meta-analysis appears to have settled the question of whether listening to Mozart is of therapeutic benefit to epileptics.
“In all, our meta-analysis shows that there is no meaningful support for a beneficial effect of listening to Mozart’s sonata … on any medically relevant conditions, let alone a specific Mozart effect for epilepsy,” the researchers said. “Mozart’s music is beautiful, but unfortunately, we cannot expect relief from epilepsy symptoms from it.”
The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports.
Source: University of Vienna