An historical commentary on the physiological effects of music: Tomatis, Mozart and neuropsychology

Integr Physiol Behav Sci. 2000 Jul-Sep;35(3):174-88. doi: 10.1007/BF02688778.


This article provides an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the Tomatis Method, along with a commentary on other forms of sound/music training and the need for research. A public debate was sparked over the "Mozart Effect." This debate has turned out to be unfortunate because the real story is being missed. The real story starts with Alfred Tomatis, M.D., scientist and innovator. Dr. Tomatis was the first to develop a technique using modified music to stimulate the rich interconnections between the ear and the nervous system to integrate aspects of human development and behavior. The originating theories behind the Tomatis Method are reviewed to describe the ear's clear connection to the brain and the nervous system. The "neuropsychology of sound training" describes how and what the Tomatis Method effects. Since Dr. Tomatis opened this field in the mid 20th century, no fewer than a dozen offshoot and related systems of training have been developed. Though each new system of treatment makes claims of effectiveness, no research exists to substantiate their claims. Rather, each simplified system bases its "right to exist and advertise" on the claimed relationship to Tomatis and his complex Method. Research is desperately needed in this area. The 50 years of clinical experience and anecdotal evidence amassed by Tomatis show that sound stimulation can provide a valuable remediation and developmental training tool for people of all ages. Offshoot systems have watered down the Tomatis Method without research to guide the decisions of simplifying the techniques and equipment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Music / psychology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychology*
  • Sound