The cause of death was kidney cancer.
In 1993, Shaw reported the results of a study in which three groups of college students listened to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, a relaxation tape, and silence. Afterward, those who had listened to Mozart saw a rise in IQ of as much as nine points, although the increase dropped after 10 minutes.
This phenomenon was widely called the "Mozart Effect," and was, according to Shaw, just as widely misconstrued in headlines such as "Mozart's Music Makes You Smarter."
"It is not that Mozart will make you permanently smarter," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993, adding that listening to the music might be a kind of brain "warm-up exercise" for abstract thinking.
The popularity of the idea, and the fact that Shaw's experiment could not be reproduced by others, eventually led to a backlash against the research from other scientists.
Shaw's early work included a computer model that matched notes to brain patterns. He also co-founded the Music Intelligence Neural Development Institute, which paired keyboard training and math, and published the book Keeping Mozart in Mind.