A sixteen-year-old David Merrill, a student at Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, Va., won top honors in regional and state science fairs for his experiment involving mice, a maze, hard-rock music and its effect on the brain.
Merrill thought that the loud sounds of hard-rock music must have a bad effect on its devoted fans and came up with a way to test that damage. Merrill got 72 mice and divided them into three groups: one to test a mouse’s response to hard rock, another to the music of Mozart and a control group that wouldn’t listen to any music at all, rock or classical.
The young man got all the mice accustomed to living in aquariums in his basement, then started playing music 10 hours a day. Merrill put each mouse through a maze three times a week that originally had taken the mice an average of 10 minutes to complete.
Over time, the 24 control-group mice managed to cut about 5 minutes from their maze-completion time. The Mozart-listening mice cut their time back 8-and-a-half minutes. But the hard-rock mice added 20 minutes to their time, making their average maze-running time 300 percent more than their original average.
Merrill told the Associated Press that he’d attempted the experiment the year before, allowing mice in the different groups to live together. But he added, “I had to cut my project short because all the hard-rock mice killed each other… None of the classical mice did that.”
One of the most famous studies conducted to determine the effects of music on the brain was headed by Francis H. Rauscher at the University of California Irvine in 1993. This experiment continued earlier research done by French researcher Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, who believed that the music of Mozart could be used to heal and develop the brain, a condition he termed “The Mozart Effect.”
Rauscher had college students listen to either pieces by Mozart, silence, or a relaxation tape and immediately followed the music with an intelligence test. Rauscher found that the students’ scores improved after listening to Mozart. While the improvement in mental imagery and temporal ordering only lasted a span of 10 to 15 minutes, the experiment has widely suggested that listening to Mozart increases IQ levels — especially in children — and has been used to defend this conception ever since.
Also, physics professor Gordon Shaw’s studies showed that listening to a Mozart piano sonata compared with rock and roll, country, rap, heavy metal, R&B, or nothing at all – actually performed better academically on tests. The effects have led researchers to believe that those who listen to classical music or play an instrument tend to excel, while those who listened to country, rock, and R&B only improved performance slightly, whereas those who listened to rap and heavy metal actually perform lower than average.
“Continuous exposure to music during the prenatal [before-and-after birth] period enhances learning performance in mice as adults,” concluded the authors of Sachiko Chikahisa and colleagues at Tokushima University in Tokushima, Japan.
Christenson and van Nouhuys (1995) claimed that students, who have low academic skills in school, commonly prefer listening to heavy metal music and he supported his hypothesis with his research. The outcome of the study shows that students who listen to metal music have more trouble with teachers than other students who prefer listening to other kind of music.
Another study conducted by Psychologist G. Gerra in 1998 attempted to determine the arousing effects of techno music commonly found at dance parties and raves attended by college students. The study found that techno music produced higher pulse rates and increased blood pressure as well as the production of stress-related hormones like epinephrine, suggesting that music has a complex influence on the nervous system. The study also found that amphetamines heightened the arousing effects of the music and that the activity of the brain is literally altered when the music is introduced, causing the brain to switch from normal alpha patterns to the beta, theta and delta patterns associated with people in a vegetative state of mind.