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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

UAE study: listening to classical music before an exam can boost results

Research by the Canadian University in Dubai found that 70 per cent of students who listened to music and received encouragement from teachers before an exam did better than those who did not.
Canadian University’s Dr Efthymios Papatzikis puts Franziska Appich through an EEG test. Victor Besa for The National
Canadian University’s Dr Efthymios Papatzikis puts Franziska Appich through an EEG test. Victor Besa for The National

DUBAI // Classical music has an air of sophistication and there has long been a correlation between its sound and high intelligence, but now a UAE study has shown that listening before an exam can boost results.

Research by the Canadian University in Dubai found that 70 per cent of students who listened to music and received encouragement from teachers before an exam did better than those who did not.

Dr Franziska Apprich, assistant professor in the school of communication and media studies at the university, conducted the study of 250 students.

Two groups went through examinations with classical music played and encouragement given by the teachers beforehand, while the other two did not.

“The result was very obvious – 70 per cent of the students performed better when there was personal attention before the final exam,” Dr Apprich said.

“It was astonishing what a huge effect the music, sound and attention gave to students. Examination anxiety is horrible and can really prevent people from performing well.”

She said her research showed that sound could bring a sense of peace to the listener, while music affected emotions.

“We still don’t know anything about the brain really, so the more research the better. What we do know is how powerful music can be in treating people with things like depression and sleep disorders, so it’s a very important area.”

Another related study undertaken by the university highlights how music can change people’s emotions and performance in stressful situations.

So far 90 people in Greece, South Africa and the UK have taken part in the research, with staff now looking to include UAE residents.

“People think of music as something we use to entertain ourselves but it’s not just that,” said Dr Efthymios Papatzikis, professor of educational neuroscience and a former professional violinist.

“We are pre-wired to use music so we’re trying to figure out how the brain reacts in terms of basic emotions and sounds.” So far, 16 of the participants have undergone EEG testing – which measures and records electrical activity in the brain. This involved listening to two compositions while their brainwaves were analysed for reactions. They were also interviewed after the brain scan and asked to take part in drawing and sketching exercises.

“We know from previous research that we don’t express emotions in our behaviour the same way our brain expresses them. We also know that different nationalities have different expressions, so we try to provide a baseline of how we understand behaviour and emotion through music. For example, does the verbal expression of emotion match what the EEG records,” Dr Papatzikis said.

“Arabs, for example, have a totally different approach to music and use it in a totally different way in their everyday life and in its relation to prayer.”

He said sounds and music were vital to a baby and child’s development so understanding how to best use it was crucial.

“For children with autism, for example, who struggle to be understood, we could come closer to them and understand them better through music. We know the impact of music but not how to control it, so this kind of research helps.

“Our brain has a multivariate approach in understanding feelings. A sound stimulus does not evoke only good or bad emotions, rather a mix of these. Our brain synthesises an average final response.

“This means that, qualitatively, no pure emotions might exist and we learn through development how to present a unified emotional reaction.”

mswan@thenational.ae