The potential of music therapy –philosophically known in the Western World since the Pythagoreans- is rapidly unfolding in the empirical setting introduced by contemporary neuroscience. Different neuroscientific studies over the past two decades have shown that the exposure to the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major K.448 decreases epileptiform discharges. The so called Mozart Effect, first described in 1993 by Rauscher et al., is not yet fully understood, though according to one hypothesis, the music of K.448 superorganizes the microanatomy of the cerebral cortex allowing it to resonate in a normalized suboptimal functioning (Hughes et al., 1998), having a therapeutic effect over the patient.
However, the same piece played on a digitalized string version did not produce the same effects. In fact, the more complex harmonic spectrum of the strings -with their significant increase in high harmonics in relation to the spectrum of the piano- did not reduce the epileptic discharges at all. From this, it could be inferred that what works, since timbre is the particular harmonic series of a fundamental tone and the relative amplitudes among those harmonics, is a specific set of simple series with few high harmonics.
Hughes, J.R. et al.. The ‘‘Mozart effect’’ on epileptiform activity. Clin. Electroencephalogr. 29, 109—119.
Lung-Chan Lin et al. The long-term effect of listening to Mozart K.448 decreases epileptiform discharges in children with epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior 21 (2011) 420–424.
Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., Ky, K.N., . Music and spatial task performance. Nature 365, 611.