Why Mozart’s music shows anti-seizure effect

Published: October 04 2021
Last updated: September 28 2022

A new Scientific Reports study has shed light on why some pieces of music composed by Mozart may have an anti-seizure effect in people with epilepsy.

It has previously been shown that listening to some pieces by Mozart, namely Piano Sonata in C Major (K545) and Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major (K448), can have anti-seizure properties. But earlier studies haven’t been able to say why this is the case with these and not other pieces of music.

The new study from the US involved 16 people with refractory focal epilepsy whose seizures could not be fully controlled with medicine. During the study, they were monitored for epileptic brain activity outside of seizures. The participants listened to Mozart’s K448 piece, as well as music genres that they liked and a piece by Wagner called Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin.

The results showed that there were reductions in epileptic activity in the brain after 30 seconds or more of the K448 piece. This reduction was found to be significant in areas of the frontal lobe of the brain, linked to emotion. The other pieces of music did not show an anti-seizure effect.

The research authors, Dr Quon and colleagues, looked at the structure of the music and found that changes between longer musical segments in the piece were linked to this therapeutic effect. This kind of structure characterised this piece of music, but not the piece by Wagner.

The researchers theorised that this kind of musical structure has a positive emotional effect, which contributes to the therapeutic effect of the piece. However, they suggest this is a subconscious emotional response on a neurological level rather than a subjective feeling, as the same effect wasn’t seen when people listened to their preferred music genres.

The authors suggest that more studies on music with similar structures should be carried out to further explore these findings and their therapeutic potential.

The study is available on the Nature website.