Saturday, 19 June 2010

Can music help you concentrate?

It's 70 years to the day that BBC radio introduced a music programme called Music While You Work in a bid to help lift morale and raise productivity among factory workers during WW2. When the first programme was broadcast on Sunday June 23rd 1940, at the British government's suggestion, the choice of music had been studiously researched - plenty of familiar tunes, but nothing too fast and nothing too slow - it was soon popular with domestic listeners, too.

Scroll forward, and research has continued to show that music can aid concentration and productivity, something that might be argued by many students today - currently in the thick of their end of year exams - but are they right?

Research from Stanford University's School of Medicine has shown that music definitely engages areas of the brain involved with paying attention. While other research from Rutgers University in 2006, from a study with maths students, actually identified which type of music was most beneficial: Baroque.

"Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned," says Chris Boyd, a proponent of music in learning and health, who runs Life Sounds ( "Baroque music, such as that composed by Bach, Handel or Telemann, that is 50 to 80 beats per minute creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Learning vocabulary, memorizing facts or reading to this music is highly effective. On the other hand, energizing Mozart music assists in holding attention during sleepy times of day and helps students stay alert while reading or working on projects."

I couldn't tell you if Rio Ferdinand is listening to Bach or Mozart, but he might like to give it a go.

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