It seems incredible that something as enjoyable as music could increase your ability to learn, improve your memory and make your brain work better — but it’s true.  Thousands of studies show the connection between music and the brain. The human brain responds to rhythm, melody and patterns; whether listening or playing, music increases and improves the brain’s neural pathways.

In one study, college students who listened to 15 minutes of Mozart before taking an IQ test scored eight to nine points higher than students who listened to either slow relaxation music or no music. Three different IQ spatial reasoning tasks requiring mental imaging of objects in space were given. The average score of those who listened to Mozart was 119, while the average score of those who listened to relaxation music was 111, and those who had no music averaged 110. This effect was not permanent and did not enhance long-term memory, but the benefit helped the student’s brain get focused and aligned.

Learning a Musical Instrument Improves Other Learning Skills

Do you want your child to be smarter and perform well in school? Then make sure he or she has the opportunity to learn, listen and participate in music. Children who study music outperform their non-musical peers in almost all areas. Students who learn a musical instrument consistently score 39-51 points higher on the SATs than their non-musical peers. The longer they have studied music, the higher their SAT scores, in both verbal and math. Those who take keyboard, harp and violin score the highest.

A group of preschool children had keyboard lessons for eight months. Afterwards, their spatial IQ, which is used for higher brain functions like complex mathematics, increased by 46 percent. (7) It ‘s never too late to bring music into your life. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!) Your brain can always benefit from the stimulus and learn to make new connections.  Skills that can be enhanced include: sensory motor, availability, vocabulary and verbal language, and visual.

The coordination needed to play instruments with two hands (and sometimes two feet) increases the coordination between the two sides of the brain. Also, fine motor skills become more highly developed. And learning music helps develop both language and math skills by developing neural pathways in the brain.

A study at Northwestern University found that studying music improved the ability to hear various sounds, including speech. This skill comes in handy when one is learning a new language. Some parts of the brain recognize the tone of voice, but not words. (8)

David Merrell, a high school student from Suffolk, Virginia, proved in 1996 that even mice can benefit from listening to classical music.  He had mice run through a maze in 10 minutes, then played heavy metal music to some mice and classical music to others, 10 hours a day for three weeks. The mice who had heard classical music then went through the maze in a minute and a half, while the mice exposed to the rock music took 30 minutes. He had to stop the project early because the mice who listened to the hard rock all killed each other! (9)


  1. Wow. Such a simple thing can increase intelligence. I’m definitely going to play music for my kids.

  2. Love this blog very interesting that music can be so useful and enjoyable at this same time 🙂

  3. Perhaps you have heard of the phrase correlation does not necessarily imply causation. What that means is that just because there is a correlation, it does not mean that there is evidence that the two are at related to each other. Let me propose an alternative hypothesis. Intelligent individuals are more likely to listen to classical music. This is a rather simple hypothesis. More simple than the idea that listening to one type of music increases intelligence, while listening to another does not. 111 and 110 aren’t different enough to be considering statistically significant, so we can’t really say that listening to relaxing music improves intelligence can we? My hypothesis being more simple is the one which should be selected, that is if we were to apply Occam’s Razor. The fact that I didn’t read into this at all, just read your blog post and came up with an alternative that is to be chosen over this according to Occam’s Razor really says leaps and bounds about the intelligence of whoever proposed the original hypothesis doesn’t it?

    Now personally I wouldn’t believe either, I say we need more data. A proper test would be one that examines a person before and after listening to a certain type of music. This poses problems though as often times people are first exposed to certain types of music growing up, and as IQ is more based on genetics as a person reaches adulthood. Any differences in intelligence we would see could be purely based on the persons genetics. There are two ways around this, either we try to control for genetic factors, but if we do that we most also acknowledge other environmental factors such as playing video games impact intelligence. So we would also need to try and control for environmental factors as well. Of course the difference in IQ then could be do to inheriting different genes, and various mutations. This really makes this sort of a test hard. I would say it would probably be best to do a study on other mammals, who haven’t been exposed to music yet and see how it effects them. Fully grown animals to try and eliminate any confounding variables, but then again testing the intelligence of a mouse would be hard to do. With humans being so exposed to music I don’t really see a completely accurate way to test for this. None the less these results you posted aren’t very well thought out at all. Whoever did this test is a hack. They know nothing of statistics.

    As for playing music, we cannot compare that to listening to music. That is a false equivalency. It is an informal logical fallacy, often known as a strawman. The problem with it, is similar to why this test is flawed in the first place. Confounding variables. Did you know that using your off hand stimulates both sides of the brain as opposed to just one with your dominant hand? Did you also know that using them both together has been shown to overtime increase the size of the corpus collasum? The part of the brain which connects the two hemispheres. That is likely why we see an increase in intelligence in those who play music. Perhaps the aspects of hearing and understanding the music impacts this as well, but I have yet to see an accurate test for such things.