How Mozart’s Music Treats Epilepsy

October 8, 2021

Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major (K448) can help reduce seizures in epilepsy patients.

The “Mozart K448 effect” in epilepsy patients was first described nearly 30 years ago.
With the exception of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C Major (K545), no other music has been shown to reduce seizures.
Emotional responses to Mozart’s music, as well as the structure of the music itself, may contribute to its therapeutic effect.

Classical music remains a staple of high culture in modern society. Many of us enjoy listening to these timeless pieces while reading, studying, or going to sleep. Indeed, some people think so highly of classical music that they have bestowed magical powers upon it — for instance, believing somehow that babies will be smarter if they listen to Beethoven rather than nursery rhymes.

While the claims of intelligence boosting are dubious, one assertion that sounds just as implausible but is absolutely real is that classical music can help treat epilepsy. But not just any classical music — specifically, Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major (K448). Known as the “Mozart K448 effect,” this bizarre phenomenon was first described nearly 30 years ago.

Since then, researchers have learned more about the Mozart K448 effect. It seems to work by reducing so-called interictal epileptiform discharges (IEDs) — abnormal brainwaves that occur in between seizures in epileptic patients. IEDs are linked to seizure frequency, so reducing the number of IEDs should also reduce the number of seizures, and this already has been demonstrated in other research.

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