By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist
Parents and researchers alike have known for some time that music is both a great learning tool and lots of fun. Music has been thought to boost brain power from babies to college students, as a controversial 1993 study found college students improved IQ scores by listening to 10 minutes of Mozart; sending parents everywhere to the music store. Although that study was found to inconclusive, a recent study brought Mozart’s music back into focus but this time for premature babies.
Conducted by Tel Aviv University, the study revealed that 30 minutes of exposure to Mozart’s music per day caused preterm infants to expend less energy resulting in less calories needed to grow rapidly. This was compared to when infants were not “listening” to the music.
One of the main priorities for doctors treating preemies is to get the baby up to an acceptable body weight so that the infant can be sent home from the hospital. In addition, premature babies are exposed to a host of bacteria and illness while in the hospital and a healthy body weight protects the babies from future problems.
The study was conceived through an international project by United States based consortium NIDCAP, whose purpose is to create a set of best practice standards for the health and well-being of neonates. Several environmental factors have been proven to affect the health of premature infants including tactile stimulation and room lighting. This study, however, was the first to quantify the effect of music on newborns. Researchers measured the physiological responses to 30 minutes of Mozart’s music and compared the infants’ energy expenditure pre and post music listening finding significantly less expenditure after the music, which could ultimately lead to faster weight gain.
Researchers theorize the music makes the babies calmer possibly due to the repetitive melodies of Mozart’s music in particular, which bears a stark contrast to other great classical composers. Israeli researchers planned to continue the study to find the long term effects using different types of music including rap, pop, ethnic, and of course classical music as well as surveying mothers to discover what types of music their infant was exposed to in the womb. The correlation between infant brain development and Mozart has been around for many years with a variety of ‘Baby Mozart’ CD’s still on the market, however, many of the myths of this positive association have been debunked. Research has shown that babies do benefit from listening, and singing along, to a variety of musical styles.
Credits to Lew Hui Teng, T3