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Parents: Will Listening to Mozart Ten Minutes a Day Make Your Child Smarter? May 23, 2007

Posted by Dr. Rohn Kessler in 9-5-4, education, fetus, infant, music, neurogenesis, neuroscience, parenting, parents, science.

Years ago research showed that students who listened to music improved their performance on some visual thinking tasks given right after they heard the music. Many jumped on the bandwagon, but it turns out the research design was flawed. One group listened to music and the control group did nothing. In fact, when children in the control were given any mental stimulation at all, there was no advantage for music listening.

The key is looking at the long-term and not the short-term effects of music listening. 

Our brains are hardwired for music.

In fact, there are long term benefits of listening to music, notes Dan Levitin in This is Your Brain on Music.

“Music listening enhances or changes certain neural circuits, including the density of dendritic connections in the primary auditory cortex…The front portion of the corpus callosum—the mass of fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres—is significantly larger in musicians than nonmusicians, and particularly for musicians who began their training early…Musicians tend to have larger cerebellums than nonmusicians, and an increased concentration of grey matter…responsible for information processing.” 

What does do these structural changes in the brain mean to you, the parent? Probably not much.


But what if musical preferences are actually influenced by what the fetus hears in the womb? Research indicates this is so. What if two-year olds begin showing a preference for the music of their culture? Research indicates this is so. What if the teenage years (around age 14) are the turning point for music preferences? Research also confirms this.

The bottom line is that the music we listen to in our early years often has the greatest effect on us and lays the foundation for all or most of our later music development.


I suggest parents pay much closer attention to the music they listen to during pregnancy and continue paying attention through during their children’s development through infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Levitin asserts that we are all more musically equipped than we think because our brains are hardwired for music. It is an obsession at the heart of human nature, perhaps even more fundamental than language.

Ideally, then, parents will not only listen to uplifting, meaningful music that moves them and encourage their children to do the same, but they will also play a musical instrument, dance and sing.

Dr. Rohn Kessler, Ed. D.



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