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Science!: Raptorex, The Beatles and WTF

Lauren Admire | 21 Sep 2009 21:00
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Mozart + WTF = Better Grades

I remember listening to Mozart right before my SAT's, desperately hoping that a quick concerto would boost my score and make up for my severe lack of studying. After receiving a horrifically pathetic score, I decided that I would study harder next time and that scientists were dirty, filthy liars.

In what was surely an attempt to win back my fickle admiration, researchers have conducted a study on the Mozart Effect. They performed a callosotomy, a procedure which disconnects the right and left hemispheres of the brain and prevents them from communicating with one another on the brains of 60 rat pups. This causes a condition called split-brain in humans.

A small portion of the brain related to spatial memory was removed from the rats right after they were born. The rats were divided into two groups, one of which jammed out to Mozart, and the other group which didn't and were left to run into walls and drool incompetently in their cages. The group that listened to Mozart for 12 hours a day, eventually showed neural recovery after fifty days and earned a 2300 on the rat-version of the SATs (i.e. a gigantic maze).

Don't have a Mozart CD on hand? Try picking up a copy of Kafka, renting a movie by David Lynch or just finding anything that makes you go "WTF?" Apparently, media with a surrealist slant can blow your mind just enough to make you a little bit smarter.

It works like this: When you're shown something that legitimately makes you question everything you've ever known to be true, you'll desperately search for structure in unrelated patterns. According to Travis Proulx, a researcher at UC Santa Barbara, "When you're exposed to a meaning threat -- something that fundamentally does not make sense -- your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment."

A group of participants were given a copy of Kafka's "The Country Doctor," a nonsensical, surrealist novel. Another group of participants read an altered version of the novel, one which was rewritten so the events and ending made sense. Afterward, both groups completed a series of puzzles, where they were asked to locate patterns within letter sequences. The group that read the nonsense story did better than the group that had read the altered version. Not only did they identify more patterns than the other group, but they were more accurate as well.

Source: Science Daily, Music Cognition

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