Mozart’s Sonata That Helps Calm The Brain Of People With Epilepsy

From making plants grow better to children being smarter, Mozart’s music has been credited with more fantastic properties (often with little or no scientific evidence behind it) than the work of any other musician.

So much so that the “Mozart effect” has become a recurring object of research, especially in the fields of neurology, psychiatry and psychology; and this is the case of a study published in the specialized medium Nature that has found possible beneficial effects of the Austrian master’s Sonata for two pianos in D major K448 in patients with epilepsy.

Just the Mozart piece
This research affects the results of previous ones that had found therapeutic benefits in patients with epilepsy of this musical piece and another also by Mozart (the Piano Sonata in C major K545), but that did not enjoy much acceptance in the scientific community because they had not been able to find the concrete mechanism of these effects.

Therefore, the methodology was based on the monitoring of 16 epilepsy patients undergoing neurosurgery through stereo electroencephalography (with intracranial electrodes) while they were exposed to different auditory stimuli (the Sonata K448, a version with a filter of the same sonata, violet noise, the Prelude to the first act of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, and music from each contestant’s favorite genres).

What the authors found was that the occurrence of interictal epileptiform discharges (IED for its acronym in English) is about electrical alterations in certain groups of neurons and at a sub-threshold level, which do not induce an attack but do induce other effects on cognition. and behavior) decreased after the first 30 seconds of listening, most notably in the areas of the brain associated with emotion. Furthermore, comparing the encephalography with the musical structure of the piece, they found that the effects were more pronounced during the transitions between long musical phases.

Furthermore, these results were not repeated with any of the other musical pieces to which the patients were exposed.

The importance of structure
Based on this, the researchers hypothesize that the calming effect demonstrated by Mozart’s sonata may be due to its structure. Contrary to what happens with Wagner’s piece, it is characterized by an interchange of defined and contrasted melodic phrases , with distinctive harmonies in each case.

By listening to each of these phrases, people are creating an anticipation about how they will be resolved and what the answer will be . When the melodies resolve in a satisfactory but unexpected way, a positive emotional response is generated (this is not something unique to Mozart’s music, but it is the way that we listen to music; what distinguishes this particular sonata is that Unlike the other pieces used in the experiment, the musical phrases are quite long, 10 seconds or more).

Although some specific mechanisms are not yet clear, the authors believe that it is this positive emotional response that would have calming effects on interictal epileptiform discharges, a theory that seems to be supported by the comparison of the EEG with the structure of the sonata.

For this reason, the researchers have pointed out that future research could precisely explore the effects of other selected musical pieces , with the aim of specifying more specifically which musical elements or structures may have therapeutic effects.