Can Listening to Mozart Help Alleviate Epilepsy?

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Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by recurrent seizures or convulsions. It affects people of all ages and can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe.

Recent research conducted by psychologists at the University of Vienna has found that there is no scientific basis for the claimed beneficial impact of Mozart’s Sonata KV448 on epilepsy.

For the past half a century, there have been remarkable claims about the impact of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music. The reports of the supposed alleviation of symptoms in epilepsy patients upon listening to Mozart’s Sonata KV448 gained widespread attention. Yet, the credibility of the underlying scientific evidence remained uncertain. In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, psychologists Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig from the University of Vienna have found that there is no credible evidence to support the notion that Mozart’s melody has a positive effect on epilepsy.

Throughout history, Mozart’s music has been linked to a range of perceived positive effects on humans, animals, and even microorganisms. For example, it has been claimed that listening to his sonatas can enhance the intelligence of adults, children, and even fetuses in the womb. It has also been stated that cows produce more milk and bacteria in sewage treatment plants operate more efficiently when exposed to Mozart’s compositions.

However, most of these alleged effects have no scientific basis. The origin of these ideas can be traced back to the long-disproven observation of a temporary increase in spatial reasoning test performance among students after listening to the first movement allegro con spirito of Mozart’s sonata KV448 in D major.

More recently, the Mozart effect experienced a further variation: Some studies reported symptom relief in epilepsy patients after they had listened to KV448. However, a new comprehensive research synthesis by Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig from the University of Vienna, based on all available scientific literature on this topic, showed that there is no reliable evidence for such a beneficial effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy.

They found that this alleged Mozart effect can be mainly attributed to selective reporting, small sample sizes, and inadequate research practices in this corpus of literature. “Mozart’s music is beautiful, but unfortunately, we cannot expect relief from epilepsy symptoms from it” conclude the researchers.

Reference: “Unfounded authority, underpowered studies, and non-transparent reporting perpetuate the Mozart effect myth: a multiverse meta-analysis” by Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig, 6 March 2023, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-30206-w

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