Playing Music Helps Premature
Babies Get Stronger, Gain Weight
Playing Mozart music to premature babies seems to help them gain
weight faster and become stronger, new research found.
Once a day for two consecutive days, doctors played either 30
minutes of music by the 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, or no music, to 20 pre-term babies at the Tel Aviv Medical
Center in Israel. After listening to the music, the babies were
calmer and so expended less energy than the no-music group. When
babies' energy expenditure is decreased, they don't need as many
calories to grow, so can gain weight and thrive more quickly
exactly what preemies need.
"It's not exactly clear how the music is affecting them,
but it makes them calmer and less likely to be agitated,"
said researcher Dror Mandel, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University.
Though the sample size was small, the scientists said their findings
were statistically significant.
Previous research has shown that music can reduce stress, decrease
heart rate, and increase oxygen saturation in preterm infants.
Oxygen saturation is a measure of the amount of oxygen carried
in the blood relative to the maximum amount the blood could carry.
When this number gets low it can be a sign of heart or lung problems.
The researchers didn't try playing any music other than Mozart's,
so they don't know whether the effect would hold true for other
"We want to know if what we found is a Mozart effect, or
just music," Mandel told LiveScience. "I think that
other composers will also have effects, however it might be that
the Mozart music has particular effects compared to other composers."
The researchers decided to try Mozart music because of a 1993
study that found that college students could temporarily improve
their performance on spatialtemporal tasks by listening
to a Mozart sonata for 10 minutes a day.
"The repetitive melodies in Mozart's music may be affecting
the organizational centers of the brain's cortex," Mandel
said. "Unlike Beethoven, Bach or Bartok, Mozart's music is
composed with a melody that is highly repetitive."
However, the so-called Mozart effect has sometimes been taken
too far. A company called Baby Einstein (now owned by Disney)
that publishes a series of Baby Mozart videos and music disks
offered a refund last year for all Baby Einstein videos, after
receiving complaints that the company had falsely claimed the
videos were educational.
The Israeli researchers plan to test out different kinds of music
soon. One team member suggested that rap music might evoke the
same response as Mozart, since it has a similar pulsating and
Mandel and his colleague Ronit Lubetzky published their findings
in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.
January 20, 2010