Young people with ADD and ADHD often prefer to have background music playing when they are doing their homework, or working. Parents are often worried that music will be yet another distraction that keeps these ADHD Kids from completing their work. Their fears may be unjustified.  Music may actually be useful.  There is not a medical consensus on the benefits of music and brain functions, but new studies are pointing to some specific brain benefits that may come to us from listening.

Remember the Mozart Effect? It was all the rage about 12 years ago. After my son was born in Georgia, we left the hospital with a Mozart CD.  The nurse told us that the music would improve our baby’s brain function. The Governor of Georgia had determined that giving every infant born in Georgia a Mozart CD was a cheap price to pay to make that Georgia infant a person with superior intelligence.

Does Listening to Mozart Increase IQ?

The Mozart Effect was a phenomena described in a book written by Don Campbell in 1997. The thesis of the book was that listening to Mozart would increase your IQ and your cognitive brain function. Much of the research in the book was based on work done by a French physician, Alfred Tomatis.  Tomatis had treated over 10,000 patients using music, and demonstrated that listening to Mozart improved spatial perception and language skills and decreased anxiety. Tomatis used Mozart music to treat these homework problems — but he never claimed that listening to Mozart would make you a person with superior intelligence. Campbell’s book sensationalized the potential benefits of the background music of Mozart, and a large number of mothers invested tons of money in ‘Baby Mozart’ CDs.

Mozart Effect “Suspect”

The Mozart Effect was suspect even before the book was published. A large number of psychiatrists and cognitive therapists considered the Mozart movement a fad, and the research in the book came under serious scrutiny after the book was published. Almost immediately, a few researchers set out to test the claims of the book. Many studies were performed, and the vast majority of the studies demonstrated no permanent changes in IQ or cognitive brain function improvements from listening to any music (even Mozart’s).  Some studies reported that any improvement in spatial perception, language skills or anxiety were transient; these went away after the music stopped.

Effects of Music Therapy vs. Drug Therapy – How We Judge

On a completely different note, it is interesting to me that we measure success of therapies such as behavioral therapy, music therapy, and cognitive therapy by determining if the effects of the treatments persist after the treatment stops; yet we are happy to proclaim that drug interventions are a great success because they work while you are using them.

We would never say, “That medicine is simply worthless, you have to continue to take it to get continued benefits.”  But if you undergo a cognitive training program and the effects do not persist six months after the program (even though there was considerable improvements while you were doing the program), then the intervention is considered a failure. It makes you appreciate how powerful therapies like diet, sleep hygiene programs and exercises are, as their benefits are long lasting.

It seems that Mozart has been shown to help people, animals and even plants while they are listening but the effects stop if you do not listen.  Studies in France have found that dairy cows having Mozart piped into their stalls give more milk. In Japan, Mozart is played in breweries, near the yeast used to make sake, and the Japanese report that the quality of the sake is greatly improved by this music. In a few language courses offered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Mozart is played because studies have showed that language learning is improved when Mozart is piped into the classroom.

Musicologists theorize that the tempo and rhythm of Mozart is helpful because it follows a pattern that the brain utilizes through auditory processing mechanisms; it improves neurotransmission, which in turn can improve symptoms such as anxiety, language, and spatial perception deficits.

ADHD Kids Enjoy Music in The Background

Most people with ADHD prefer to work, and many ADHD children prefer to do their homework with music playing in the background.  A recent study performed at the University of Dayton, confirmed that background Mozart improved the accuracy of language processing, and the speed of spatial processing.  Although it is Mozart’s Sonatas that are reported to give the best cognitive effect, this study used 10 different Mozart pieces that were of the same tempo, and found similar effects.

Music may help brain functioning — at least while we are playing it. This may be reason enough to allow our Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Young people to listen to background music while they are studying.  Unfortunately, our Young people rarely want to listen to Mozart.  I am pretty sure that Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga music will not give us the same brain benefits that you can get from Mozart — but then again, we have yet to study it.


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