People have long tried to use music as a tool to improve their abilities. Soldiers chanted songs when marching into battle, sailors sang songs on long voyages, and cloth makers sang when weaving. But do we have any evidence that music makes a difference for any of our activities?
We’ve only recently started to ask that question scientifically. It began with the Mozart effect, which seemed to link classical music to improved mental performance. Named after the famous composer, it was shorthand for the apparent boost in IQ tests that people listening to his music experienced. But the phenomenon turned out not to be real. “Background music was thought to help with work. [It was] found to be the noise stopping the person from being distracted,” says Professor Concetta Tomaino, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.
However, research into music and its effects on human abilities continued and eventually resulted in the discovery of an effect called brain entrainment, which appears capable of improving memory, focus, sleep, and physical activity.