Music can help epilepsy

A new analysis on the effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy has confirmed that listening to his piano music can reduce the frequency of epilepsy attacks. The results of this study of studies, which may overturn current scepticism about the effect, were presented at the 2020 European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) congress after recent publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The idea that listening to Mozart may have beneficial effects on mental health arose from early findings in the 1990s. The “Mozart Effect” has been treated with some scepticism but now two Italian Researchers, Dr Gianluca Sesso and Dr Federico Sicca from the University of Pisa have conducted a review of works related to the effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy. 

They looked at 147 published research articles and from that selected 12 pieces of research representing the best available science on the effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy. 


They found that listening to Mozart, especially on a daily basis, led to a significant reduction in epileptic seizures, and also to a reduced frequency of abnormal brain activities in epileptic patients. These effects occurred after a single listening session and were maintained after a prolonged period of treatment. 

Gianluca Sesso said Epilepsy is surprisingly common, affecting just under 1 person in a hundred worldwide. This means that it has significant social and personal costs. Mostly it’s treated by drugs, but these drugs don’t work in around 30% of patients, so we need to be open to other therapies: the important thing is that these therapies can be tested and shown to work, and this is what we have shown here."

The analysis indicates that a period of listening to Mozart can give an average reduction in epileptic seizures ranging from between 31% to 66%, but this varies from person to person and according to the music stimulus used. The original studies on the Mozart Effect used the sonata for 2 pianos, K448, and this has remained the music most used in studies. The K545 piano sonata has also been shown to have an effect. 

Dr Sesso added, “All cultures have music, so it obviously fulfils some psychological need. The mechanisms of the Mozart Effect are poorly understood. Obviously other music may have similar effects, but it may be that Mozart’s sonatas have distinctive rhythmic structures which are particularly suited to working on epilepsy. This may involve several brain systems, but this would need to be proven."

The official published paper can be purchased at Safe and sound: Meta-analyzing the Mozart effect on epilepsy. Gianluca Sesso, Federico Sicca, Clinical Neurophysiology 131 (2020) 1610–1620


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