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Last Updated: Monday, 5 June 2006, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Mozart 'aids eye check accuracy'
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 250 years ago
Listening to Mozart helps patients perform more reliably in sight tests, a study has found.

The automated perimetry test checks the peripheral vision of patients with glaucoma or neurological conditions.

Brazilian researchers let 30 patients listen to 10 minutes of Mozart's sonata for two pianos, while another 30 prepared in silence.

The research, in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, found the music improved performance in the tests.

The authors are to be congratulated for proposing a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive procedure for enhancing reliability of one of our least reliable testing methods
Dr Robert Stamper
University College San Francisco

The "Mozart effect" has already been associated with improved mathematical skills, enhanced foetal brain development and improved learning among college students.

The team, from the Santa Casa of Sao Paulo, studied patients who had not taken the AP test before.

In the test, a white shape is projected onto a white background, and the person has to press a button when they can see the shape.

'Priming' the brain

The patients either listened to 10 minutes of music or sat in silence before their tests.

Both groups included a similar mix of men and women and ethnic groups.

The group who listened to music were able to focus better and perform more reliably in tests.

However, in this instance, the Mozart effect was only seen to last around 10 minutes.

Writing in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers, led by Vanessa Macedo, said there was already evidence that the "Mozart effect" improved spatial-temporal reasoning.

They suggest that the effect may also aid the interpretation of information coming from the eye to the brain.

"We could assume that listening to Mozart can either 'prime' the pathways responsible for visual images, possibly shape or colour or improve intention to some extent."

'Enhancing reliability'

The researchers say there is a possibility that it was not the music which caused the improved performance, and it could have been anxiety in the group left in silence which affected their test results.

But they add that 10 minutes is a relatively short period for anxiety to develop to such an extent that it damaged performance, and that their findings fitted in to previous studies showing the "Mozart effect" in other areas.

However Dr Robert Stamper, of the University of California, San Francisco, department of ophthalmology, said: "Despite a large body of evidence that Mozart's music may have a positive influence on a variety of performance tasks, this study does not prove that it was the Mozart that was the causative factor.

"It could have been the headphones, Mozart music in general, or the specific piece that they played."

But he added: "The authors are to be congratulated for proposing a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive procedure for enhancing reliability of one of our least reliable testing methods.

"If some of the questions about the study could be answered satisfactorily, this improvement in our visual field testing process would be most welcome."

And Ian Murdoch, consultant Ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, warned there was potential bias in the study.

"An example of how this might matter might be that only music lovers were selected for the music listening group.

"This has more than just the possibility that they felt more buoyed up by Mozart; there is clear evidence that music prowess is linked to intelligence and thus may well be linked to field performance.

"It is tricky to make any conclusion other than it has a possible effect on medical students."

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