ing experiences can enhance the proliferation of new neurons, specifically, the hippocampal dentate gyrus used in hippocampal-dependent tasks.


In general, applications of brain-based theories to education and assessment are relatively limited at this time, though that may not be the case in the future. As Bruer (1997, 1999) and others have noted, brain research by itself currently provides limited guidance for understanding or modifying complex higher-order cognitive processes. Although neuroimaging or neurophysiological measures may reveal limits to cognitive abilities at the behavioral level, in most cases additional understanding and cognitive theory are necessary to translate these observations into instructional and assessment practices. Rushing to conclusions about the educational implications

“significantly happier” listening to silence or Mozart than they were listening to a control piece of postmodern music by Philip Glass. One recent report (Nantais and Schellenberg, 1999) indicates a very slight but significant improvement in performance after listening to music by Mozart and Schubert as compared with silence. When listening to Mozart was compared with listening to a story, however, no effect was observed, a finding that negates the brain model. Mood appeared to be the critical variable in this study.

Why did the Mozart effect receive so much media play, particularly when the effect, if it exists at all, lasts only minutes? One might speculate that this was the case in part because the initial positive result was published in Nature, a journal routinely viewed by the media as being highly prestigious in science. Another factor, no doubt, is that exposing one’s child to music appears to be an easy way of making her or him smarter—much easier than reading to the child regularly. Moreover, the so-called neurophysiological rationale provided for the effect probably enhanced its scientific credibility in the eyes of the media. Actually, this rationale is not neurophysiological at all: there is no evidence whatsoever to support the argument that music excites cortical firing patterns similar to those used in spatial-temporal tasks.

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