Epileptic brain activity reduced by the ‘Mozart effect’

Epileptic brain activity reduced by the ‘Mozart effect’
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New research has demonstrated that music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has an anti-epileptic effect on the brain and may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures.

A team from the Epilepsy Centre at the Hospital St Anne and CEITEC Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic, has demonstrated that listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448 led to a 32% reduction in epileptiform discharges (EDs) – which are electrical brain waves associated with epilepsy and can cause seizures or bursts of electrical activity that temporarily affect how the brain works. The team believes that the acoustic properties within the music are responsible for this effect.

The research was presented at the 7th Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN).

Mozart’s impact on brain activity

The team, led by Professor Ivan Rektor, compared the effects of listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448 with Haydn’s Symphony No 94, and the effects on brain activity were measured by intracerebral electrodes that had been implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery.

Professor Rektor said: “To our surprise, there were significant differences between the effects of listening to Mozart’s K448 and Haydn’s No 94. Listening to Mozart led to a 32% decrease in EDs, but listening to Haydn’s No 94 caused a 45% increase.

“In the second part of our study, we set out to explain the ‘Mozart effect’ in epilepsy.”

The study found that men and women responded differently to the two pieces of music. Listening to Haydn’s music led to suppressed epileptiform discharges only in women; in the men, there was an increase of epileptiform discharges.

The acoustic properties, such as the rhythm, dynamics, and tone, showed that the acoustic features of music composition have a different effect on men and women.

Individualised music therapies

It has been previously hypothesised that the Mozart effect in epilepsy was connected to the emotional effects of music, as dopamine is released when listening to music, however, there is no direct proof of the mechanism.

“We believe the physical ‘acoustic’ features of the Mozart music affect brain oscillations – or brain waves – which is responsible for reducing Eds,” added Rektor.

“We found that the reduction in Eds was larger in the lateral temporal lobe, which the part of the brain which participates in translating acoustic signals, rather than in the mesiotemporal limbic region, which plays an important role in the emotional response to music.

“The effects of listening to music on epilepsy cannot be explained by the effect of dopamine released by the reward system. Our patients were not music connoisseurs and said they were emotionally indifferent to the two pieces of music. There was therefore no reason to believe that K448 evoked more pleasure than No. 94.”

Experts believe the study’s findings could pave the way for individualised music therapies to be developed to prevent and control epileptic seizures in the future.

“Based on our research, we suggest studying the use of musical pieces with well-defined acoustic properties as a non-invasive method to reduce epileptic activity in patients with epilepsy”, concluded Professor Rektor.

The researchers have called for more research into the effects of music on the brain.

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