DATE: Thursday, July 24, 1997 TAG: 9707240420 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY LORRAINE EATON, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: SUFFOLK LENGTH: 66 lines
Your mom was right. Rock 'n' roll really does rot your brain.
That's according to David Merrell, a 16-year-old Nansemond River High School student whose high school science experiment supports what parents have been saying for years: Hard rock taints the brain - well, at least the brains of mice.
Using 72 male laboratory mice, a stopwatch, a 5- by 3-foot maze and the music of Mozart and Anthrax, David worked with an Old Dominion University statistician to establish that hard rock impedes learning.
In the process, the rising junior captured top honors in regional and state science fairs and earned accolades from the Navy and the CIA.
``Don't let your kids listen to hard rock music,'' he said. ``I think it has a major negative effect.''
To prove his point, David assembled three separate groups of 24 mice: a control group, a hard rock group and a classical group. To ensure scientific validity, each white mouse weighed between 15 and 20 grams, was 4 to 6 weeks old and was bred to ensure no genetic abnormalities existed.
The mice spent the first week getting used to their controlled environment in David's parents' basement. They received measured feedings and 12 hours of light each day. Each mouse navigated the maze to establish the base time of about 10 minutes.
Then David started piping in music 10 hours a day. The control group navigated without music. He put each mouse through the maze three times a week for three weeks.
The results: the control group shaved five minutes from its original time.
The mice that navigated the maze with Mozart knocked 8 1/2 minutes off their time. But the group listening to hard rock bumped through the maze, dazed and confused, taking an average of 30 minutes, tripling the amount of time it previously took to complete the maze. Most noticeably, the hard rock mice didn't sniff the air to find the trails of others that came before them.
``It was like the music dulled their senses,'' David said. ``It shows point-blank that hard rock has a negative effect all around. I can't think of a positive effect that hard rock has'' on learning.
In fact, David thinks that the negative effects go well beyond learning.
During the four-month experiment David housed each mouse in separate aquariums. That's because last year, for a similar project, he kept all the hard rock mice together, all the classical mice together and all the control mice together. The results were horrific.
``I had to cut my project short because all the hard rock mice killed each other,'' David said. ``None of the classical mice did that at all.''
David's awards include first place in the behavioral science division at the Virginia State Science and Engineering Fair and the Tidewater Science Fair. He also won Northern Virginia Community College's Veterinary Technology Award and accolades from the Newport News Arts Commission, the Science and Humanitarian Symposium at James Madison University, the Navy and the CIA.
David himself isn't a fan of hard rock, so his discovery won't affect his lifestyle too much. But other teens may feel the heat.
``At the actual fairs parents would see it and come back with their kids,'' David said. ``They'd say, `See, I told you hard rock would do that.' '' ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
GARY C. KNAPP
David Merrell, a junior at Nansemond River High School, used music,
mice and this maze to win him top honors in regional and state
Student's study finds hard rock drains the brain
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