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 clains 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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abrams, R.M. et al. (1987). Effects of cochlear ablation on local cerebral glucose utilization in fetal sheep.American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 157, 1438–42.
Blakeslee, S. (1994) New Clue to Cause of Dyslexia Seen in Mishearing of Fast Sounds.New York Times, August 16, 1994.
Blood, A. J., Zatorre, R. J., Bermudez, P. and Evans, A.C. (1999). Emotional responses to pleasant and unpleasant music correlate with activity in paralimbic brain regions.Nature Neuroscience 2, 382–387.
Bruer, J.T. (1997).The Myth of the First Three Years. New York: The Free Press.
Campbell, D. (1997).The Mozart Effect. New York: Avon Books.
Chamberlain, D.B. (1983).Consciousness at birth: A review of the empirical evidence. San Diego: Chamberlain Communications.
DeCasper, A. and Fifer, W. (1980). Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mother’s voices.Science, 208, 1174–1176.
du Plessis, W.F. and van Jaarsveld, P.E. (1988). Audio-psycho-phonology at Potchefstroom: A comparative outcome study on anxious primary school pupils.South African Tydskr. Sielk., 18 (4), 144–151.
Eisenberg, R. (1976).Auditory competence in early life. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Gilmor, T.M. (1989). The Tomatis method and the genesis of listening.Pre- & peri-natal psychology, 4, 9–26.
Gilmor, T.M. (1999). The efficacy of the Tomatis Method for children with learning and communication disorders: A meta-analysis.International Journal of Listening, 13, 12–23.
Hebb, Donald O. (1966).A Textbook of Psychology. London.
Hunt, J.M. (1961).Intelligence and Experience. New York: The Ronald Press Company.
le Gall, A. (March, 1961). The correction of certain psychological and psychopedagogical deficiencies by the Electronic Ear using the Tomatis Effect. Paris: Office of the Inspector General of Public Instruction.
Merzenich, M.M., Jenkins, W.M., Johnston, P., Schreiner, C., Miller, S.L. and Tallal, P. (1996). Temporal Processing Deficits of Language-Learning Impaired Children Ameliorated by Training.Science 271, 77–81.
Querleu, D., Renard, X., Versyp, F., Paris-Delrue, L. and Crepin, G. (1988a). Fetal hearing.European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 29, 191–212.
Querleu, D., Renard, X., Versyp, F., Paris-Delrue, L. and Crepin, G. (1988b). La transmission intra-amniotique des voix humaines.Rev Fr Gynecol Obstet, 83, 43–50.
Querleu, D., Renard, X., Boutteville, C. and Crepin, G. (1989). Hearing by the Human Fetus?Seminars in Perinatology, 13 (5), 409–420.
Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., Levine, L.J. and Wright, E.L. (1993). Pilot Study Indicates Music Training of Three-Year-Olds Enhances Specific Spatial Reasoning Skills. Paper presented at the First Economic Summit of the National Association of Music Merchants in Newport Beach, CA. Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of California, Irvine, CA. 92717.
Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., Levine, L.J., Wright, E.L., Dennis, W.R. and Newcomb, R. (1997). Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning.Neurological Research, 19, 1–8.
Shaw, G.L. (1999).Keeping Mozart in Mind. Academic Press.
Spence, M. and DeCasper, A. (1982). Human fetuses perceive maternal speech. Paper presented at the SRCD Conference, Austin, TX.
Spence, M. and DeCasper, A. (1986). Prenatal experience with low frequency maternal voice sounds influences the newborn’s perception of maternal voice.Infant Behavioral Development, 10, 133–142.
Thompson, B.M. (1993a). Listening disabilities: Plight of Many. In Wolvin, A. and Coakley, C. (Eds.),Perspectives on Listening, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.
Thompson, B.M. (1993). Sound Therapy. In Burton Goldberg Group,Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Puyallup, Washington: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc.
Thompson, B.M. and Andrews, S.R. (1999). The Emerging Field of Sound Training.IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, 18, 89–96.
Tomatis, A.A. (1963).L’Oreille et le langage, Paris: Seuil.
Tomatis, A.A. (1971).Education et dyslexie. Paris: Les Editions E.S.F.
Tomatis, A.A. (1974a).Vers l’écoute humaine (Vol. I). Paris: Les Edition E.S.F.
Tomatis, A.A. (1974b).Vers l’écoute humaine (Vol. II). Paris: Les Edition E.S.F.
Tomatis, A.A. (1977).L’Oreille et la Vie, Paris: Editions Robert Laffont.
Tomatis, A.A. (1978).Education and Dyslexia. Fribourg, Switzerland: Association Internationale dí Audio-Psycho-Phonologie (out of print).
Tomatis, A.A. (1979). The ear and learning difficulties (T. Brown, Trans.). Paper presented at the Quebec Association for Children with Learning Problems, March, 1979.
Tomatis, A.A. (1987).La nuit uterine, Paris: Stock Editions.
Tomatis, A.A. (1991).The Conscious Ear, Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press (out of print).
Tomatis A.A. (1996).The Ear and Language. Norval, Ontario: Moulin Press.
van Jaarsveld, P.E. and du Plessis, W.F. (1988). Audio-psycho-phonology at Potchefstroom: A review.South African Tydskr. Sielk., 18(4), 136–142.
Verny, T. (1981).The secret life of the unborn child. New York: Dell Publishing Co.
Von Békésy, G. (1960).Experiments in hearing. New York: McGraw Hill.
About this article
Cite this article
Thompson, B.M., Andrews, S.R. An historical commentary on the physiological effects of music: Tomatis, Mozart and neuropsychology. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 35, 174–188 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02688778
- Vestibular Nucleus
- Sound Stimulation
- Cranial Nerve VIII
- High Frequency Sound