Messy Homes Cause Messy Minds
by Kenneth Lyen
Twin studies have been helpful in elucidating factors responsible for causing diseases and behavioural differences. British psychiatrist Robert Plomin studied 8,000 twins born from 1994-1996.
He found that "those living in noisy, disorganised and cramped homes were less intelligent."
Because his studies included both identical and fraternal twins, he was able to clarify the relative influences of genetics and environment. He concluded that environment has a slightly greater effect on intelligence.
Children raised in the homes of wealthier and better-educated parents were more intelligent, and this he could correlate with the slightly more organised home environment. Children raised in homes that were more chaotic were less intelligent. Plomin said that: "If a kid is in a really chaotic home, it's hard to imagine that they can learn in a normal way. Their surroundings just aren't subtle enough for them to tease apart the world."
I wonder whether or not the more organised home played more classical music, especially those by Mozart? In 1993, Fran Rauscher published a research paper in Nature, showing that college students who listened to Mozart daily, performed better on spatial reasoning tests compared to those who listened to new age music or nothing at all. This was known as the "Mozart Effect". And it resulted in a surge in the sale of Mozart CDs.
Interestingly enough, the Mozart Effect can be duplicated in rats. Rodents, like humans, performed better on learning and memory tests after listening to a Mozart sonata.
These observations have led to a great deal of controversy. Some scientists argued that the improved test scores were simply due to a general improvement of a person's (or rodents) mood. Other scientists reported that the rhythmic qualities of Mozart's music were mimicking some rhythmic cycles occurring in human brains.
Rauscher and her collaborator, Li Hong Hua, have recently discovered that the smarter rats had increased gene expression of a neural growth factor and proteins responsible for memory, compared to control rats who listened to equivalent amounts of white noise. This lends biochemical support to the observed phenomenon.
On a more practical front, it has been shown that patients with Alzheimer's disease perform better on spatial and social tasks after listening to Mozart. Even severely epileptic patients played Mozart quietened their electrical activity associated with seizures, which other kinds of music could not achieve.
I guess I should rush out and buy a slew of Mozart CDs to enhance my own sagging memory. Now, how do I stop the rodents in my home from eavesdropping on the music and thereby outsmarting me?