Listening to classical music has a wide range of health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep – but is some music more healing than others? Czech scientists tested the impact of listening to Mozart and Haydn on epileptic patients and found that listening to Mozart was more effective than Haydn’s in treating epilepsy. The results of their study have been published in the European Journal of Neurology.
The concept that listening to Mozart’s music may have beneficial side-effects on mental health started with several ‘Mozart Effect’ findings in the 1990s.
Scientists from the Czech CEITEC institute, together with doctors, tested the validity of the ‘Mozart Effect’ on 18 patients with epilepsy who listened to the first movement of his Sonata For Two Pianos in D major, K. 488.
Mozart’s sonata reduced epileptic discharges
Professor Ivan Rektor, who led the study, said, “We have confirmed that Mozart’s Sonata reduced epileptic discharges that were measured directly in the brain. The study was carried out on patients with electrodes implanted in their brains who were due to undergo a neurosurgery. The electrodes were there to localize the place which was to be surgically removed.”
The scientists also wanted to establish whether listening to this particular Mozart piece was more beneficial than others for patients with epilepsy and chose the first movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 to compare results. They noted, “We selected Haydn’s Symphony because it was composed in the same era and roughly the same style as Mozart’s. None of our patients had any musical training, so they didn’t really care whether they listened to Mozart or Haydn.
“We selected these two compositions because we wanted to test various acoustic parameters of the music, and we needed compositions that would be different in this respect.”
The music affected women’s and men’s brains differently
The study confirmed that the healing effect of music depends mainly on its acoustic properties, including rhythm, melody, tempo and harmony and that listening to Mozart’s sonata was more beneficial for patients with epilepsy. The scientists were also surprised to discover that the music affected women’s and men’s brains differently. They explained, “This is something we hadn’t expected at all. We found out that while Mozart’s composition reduced epileptic activity in both women and men, listening to Haydn’s composition reduced epileptic discharges only in women. In men, the epileptic activity increased.”
A follow-up study, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging, confirmed that certain parts of the brain were affected differently in men and women.
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder affecting nearly one in one hundred people worldwide. Mostly it’s treated by drugs but they do not work for about 30 percent of patients.
A recent comprehensive analysis of the effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy, by Dr Gianluca Sesso and Dr Federico Sicca from the University of Pisa, found that listening to Mozart’s music, especially on a daily basis, reduced epileptic seizures by an average of between 31 and 66 percent. The results of this meta-analysis were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress.
The scientists hope that in future music could be used as an alternative, non-invasive treatment for epileptic patients.
Listen to the best of Mozart on Spotify.