Mozart and epilepsy: the rhythm beats on

I can’t seem to get away from the theme of Mozart and epilepsy. When I first looked at this, in a blog post titled Mozart and seizures? The links between epilepsy and music, I took the topic rather lightly, more a subscript than a headline you may say. But I have since learnt to take the links between epilepsy and music more seriously. 

By Barbara KrafftThe Bridgeman Art Library, Object 574471, Public Domain, Link

The major trigger for my ‘road to Damascus’ conversion is a 2018 paper titled Study of the Mozart effect in children with epileptic electroencephalograms, published in the journal Seizure. The paper was an eye-opener because it gave a very helpful comprehensive context to the broader beneficial effect of music…not just in epilepsy, but in other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and sleep disorders. The authors, Elyza Grylls and colleagues, started on the established premise that Mozart’s music has a beneficial effect on epilepsy. What they wanted to know was if other forms of music have a similar settling effect on epilepsy, or if only Mozart’s music carries the magic touch. The authors therefore played Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos in D major (K448) to 40 children with epilepsy who were undergoing an EEG (electroencephalogram, or electrical brain wave test). They then compared this with the effect of playing other types of music. Remarkably, they found that only Mozart’s Sonata led to a significant reduction in EEG epileptic discharges.

Public Domain, Link

The authors concluded that there was indeed an anti-epileptic effect of Mozart’s music, the so-called  ‘Mozart therapy’. But what is so special about K448? They speculate that it has to do with the structure of Mozart’s music, containing as it does, long periodicities. Interestingly, the music of Yanni, which is similarly structured, has somewhat a similar effect on brain wave activity. On the contrary, and sorry to Beethoven fans, Fur Elise doesn’t have this effect.

By W.J. Baker (held the expired copyright on the photograph) – Library of Congress[1]Contrairement à une erreur fréquemment répandue le buste a été réalisé par Hugo Hagen, non pas à partir du masque mortuaire mais, comme de nombreux autres, d’après le masque réalisé en 1812 par Franz Klein pour un buste qu’il devait réaliser ensuite., Public Domain, Link
So what does the structure of Mozart’s music do to the brain? One suggestion is that Mozart’s music enhances the body’s parasympathetic drive; this reduces the heart rate, and thereby inhibits the brain’s propensity to epileptic seizures. The suppression of this parasympathetic drive is of course the theory behind using vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) to treat drug-resistant epilepsy. For more on VNS, see my previous blog, Vagus nerve stimulation: from neurology and beyond!

By Bionerd – MRI at Charite Mitte, Berlin (used with permission), CC BY 3.0, Link

You have surely wondered by now whether K448 is the only one of Mozart’s compositions to have an anti-epileptic effect. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t, because the authors of another interesting paper have. They titled their study, published in 2018, Mozart’s music in children with drug-refractory epileptic encephalopathies: comparison of two protocols. Published in the journal Epilepsy and Behaviour, the authors, Giangennaro Coppola and colleagues, compared the effect of K448 with a set of his other compositions. Intriguingly they found that the composition set actually had a greater effect in epilepsy than K448…by a wide margin of 70% to 20%! Furthermore, the set was better tolerated by the children; they were less irritable and had a better nighttime sleep quality.

So, is it all rosy in the garden of music and the brain? No, it’s not! As every rose grows on a thorny tree, so do some forms of music trigger epileptic seizures. This so-called musicogenic epilepsy is well-recognised, and two recent culprits are the music of Sean Paul, discussed in the journal Scientific American , and the music of Ne Yo, explored by NME. Therefore you should craft your playlist wisely.

By CLASSICNEYOOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

So, is it time for neurologists to start prescribing music?

Or is it too much of a double-edged sword?

Music is #SimplyIrresistible. Luca Florio on Flickr.

Is this the most stunning video clip about brain facts?

I must admit video clips are not my thing but I came across this very well made video I felt compelled to share. It came to my attention from unusual sites for medical information- Business Insider UK and Tech Insider. Nothing better to broaden one’s horizon! It is a very-well made video and presents some very awesome facts. See for yourself!



Whilst at it, there is also a slightly less stylish clip which is full of interesting brain facts; it is very well-presented and I think also worth a view.



If you do not like video clips then perhaps you will be interested in these 10 things that change your brain sourced from OpenMind. Open mind indeed!






Is there a link between genius, creativity and bipolar disorder?

It must be tough having a mental health problem but does it come with some advantages? Its hard to think of any until I came across this paper in Molecular Psychiatry. It suggests that bipolar disorder is probably more common in clever people. The authors studied records of > 1 million Swedish men to test the hypothesis that creativity is associated with profound mood swings. Indeed the study found that those blessed with a high IQ are probably prone to pure bipolar disorder.

By LaurMG - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By LaurMG – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

But is there a real link between genius and bipolar disorder. Indeed a recent suggested a common genetic linkage between genius and bipolar disorderThe Guardian gives a comprehensive analysis of this study which is worth a read.

By Christoph Bock (Max Planck Institute for Informatics) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By Christoph Bock (Max Planck Institute for Informatics)Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Does any creative person with bipolar disorder come to mind? Perhaps. A quick look at PubMed brought up a paper that suggested that Virginia Woolf’s creativity is linked to her bipolar disorder.

"George Charles Beresford - Virginia Woolf in 1902" by George Charles Beresford - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
George Charles Beresford – Virginia Woolf in 1902” by George Charles Beresford Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

How many geniuses have we cocooned in psychiatric wards I wonder. Or is Virginia Woolf in good company, roaming free and creating? This Wikipedia list of famous people with bipolar disorder would suggest so.

By United States National Institutes of Health -, Public Domain, Link
By United States National Institutes of Health –, Public Domain, Link

You may also check my other blog post on this subject titled Autism and creativity.




Will Smith and chronic traumatic encephalopathy?

"Will-smith-userbox" by Walmart Stores (Original image) - File:Will Smith 2011, 2.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Will-smith-userbox” by Walmart Stores (Original image) – File:Will Smith 2011, 2.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

No, Will Smith has not developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He is however playing Nigerian-born Bennett Omalu in an upcoming film, Concussion. The Nigerian-born and trained forensic pathologist was the first to report an association between repeated head trauma and the neurodegenerative disease CTE. He relates his story in this interview.

It will be interesting to see the film portrays the great lengths the National Football League (NFL) went to discredit the hero but here is a trailer:” target=”_blank”>

And talking of Nigerian doctors and the movies, Danny Glover will be playing a part in 93 days, a film about the action of a few dedicated doctors to stop the spread of the deadly ebola virus in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country.” target=”_blank”>

The heroine of the story is however Dr Stella Adadevoh, the brave doctor who lost her life to the virus but saved a nation. This link tells her story.

What has Ebola got to do with Neurology? I thought it was a cause of viral encephalitis but apparently not going by this statement from The Encephalitis Society