Plenty of research links the studying of music at a young age to increases in brain development. The term coined for this is the ‘Mozart effect’, and a study released today, involving babies, further strengthens that theory. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared the brain responses of two sets of nine-month-old babies who each underwent different types of active play. The results were analyzed by scientists from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
The babies in the first group played along with their parents, handling blocks, toy cars and other items which required significant manipulation. This group session was held without music. The second group was led in a musical activity where they were helped by their parents to tap out a beat to a waltz, a challenging time signature for babies. Video was recorded by the Institute to show the type of musical activities in which the children were engaged. Researchers say that after a month, the babies in the music-aided group displayed a stronger cognitive response to music and speech. Experts say these findings suggest that children who listen to music as babies may become better at interpreting patterns in sounds.
Music therapy has even been shown to help babies in hospitals. Earlier this year, a California hospital introduced music into their neonatal intensive care unit, and had such success that they doubled the funding and staffing for the program. The NICU can be a loud, bright, unpleasant place for newborns. This can have a negative impact on heart rates, breathing rates, even feeding and digestion. The addition of a music therapist into the mix had parents and staff noticing immediate, visible, documented and long-lasting improvement in the newborns.
Here’s a few easy tips from BabyCenter on how you can use music to encourage and enrich the life of your newborn. Turn off your TV and make your MP3 player, I- POD, computer speakers or stereo the most important fixture in your home. Interaction is key. Wonder what to play? According to BabyCenter, your child will give you the cues. Sing to your baby, and don’t worry about how you sound – they’ll love the attention and won’t critique you! Sing songs during playtime – sing the words to a simple game of peekaboo. Remember how many times you may have sung to them to calm or distract them? Try it when they’re wide awake. Researchers in the study note that babies seem to learn best when they are engaged in interactions with their parents; there is not yet any data on whether passively listening to music has the same effects.