If you are male and want to focus your mind, listen to Mozart rather than rock music, UK research suggests.

There have umpteen studies over the years investigating the link between music and cognitive skills. One the most famous theories is the so-called Mozart Effect, which propounds the popular idea that listing to classical music makes you smarter – or at least leads to a short-term improvement in certain mental tasks.

Now a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, suggests that listening to classical music helps men concentrate, though it makes no difference to women. The research was carried out by the Centre for Performance Science, a cross-institutional partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London: an internationally regarded centre for research, teaching and knowledge exchange in music performance science.

Researchers asked 352 visitors at the Imperial Festival (which showcases the best in science and arts at Imperial College London) to play the popular family game Operation. Volunteers were given headphones playing either the Andante from Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos, Thunderstruck by AC/DC, or the sound of a real operating theatre. The scientists then timed how long it took the participants to remove three body parts, and tracked their mistakes.

The results revealed that men were slower and made more mistakes when they listened to AC/DC, compared to those who listened to Mozart or the sound of an operating theatre. However, none of the three tracks made any difference to the performance of women, who generally took longer than the men to remove the body parts but made fewer mistakes. The scientists also asked people about their musical tastes, and found that Mozart only reduced the number of mistakes if the volunteers reported high levels of appreciation for the music.

As reported in Rhinegold Publishing, Dr Daisy Fancourt, lead author of the research, said: “Although this study is clearly tongue-in-cheek, and was all performed in our spare time, it is part of our wider research into the effect of music on performance.”