Premature babies’ brains could develop better if they listen to calming music


  • A new study suggests that listening to music can aid brain development in premature babies.
  • Researchers exposed these infants to calming music made with a harp, bells, and flute.
  • MRIs of the premature babies’ brains exposed to music revealed that they were similar to a full-term baby’s brain.

Many people know of the Mozart effect- the theory that listening to classical music makes babies smarter. Though this has been met with controversy, there is a new study that says listening to calm music can be beneficial for premature babies.

Unlike full-term babies, those born too early may not have had enough time for their neural infrastructure to have fully developed. Thus, this development has to occur after they exit the womb.

However, infants born over eight weeks early usually start their lives in an intensive care unit (ICU). The kind of environment they’re exposed to can be stressful and not really ideal for essential neurological development.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a study says that exposing a premature baby to music during the first few weeks of its life is critical to encourage normal brain development.

Researchers from the University of Geneva and the University of Hospitals of Geneva wanted to make an ideal environment based on this theory and exposed premature babies to calming music during vital points of the day.

Using different instruments, composer Andreas Vollenweider determined which ones resulted in the calmest reactions- harps, bells, and a punji or an Indian snake charmer’s flute. Each musical track was 8 minutes long and played when the babies as they woke up, during their hours awake, and as they fell asleep.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the premature babies’ brains found that their neurological infrastructure was more similar to a full-term baby’s brain if they were exposed to the music as compared to those who weren’t.

The study’s team is planning a follow up-research on the babies involved, some now nearing six years old, and will test aspects like their cognitive, emotional and social wellbeing.


Source: IFL Science

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