Music Boosts Babies’ Learning Skills

Music Boosts Babies’ Learning Skills Music Boosts Babies’ Learning Skills

A new study suggests that listening to music with a waltz-like rhythm -- a difficult form of rhythm for infants to comprehend -- and tapping out the beats with their parents improved babies’ processing of music patterns and speech sounds.

“Actively participating in music may be another important experience that can influence infants’ brain development and help them learn,” said study lead author T. Christina Zhao. She’s a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle.

However, researchers said that it’s not clear how long the effect of listening to music may last or how much exposure to music is needed to make improvements in music- and speech-pattern processing, reports

Previous research -- known popularly as the “Mozart effect” -- on how music in early childhood might have a positive impact on young children’s brain development has had mixed results. The differences were likely due to the design of the studies, the authors of the new study suggested.

For the new study, researchers randomly assigned 39 nine-month-old babies to be exposed to music or serve as a control group.

Nineteen of the babies in the control group played with toys during a dozen 15-minute sessions in a month.

The other 20 babies listened to recordings of children’s music played while an experimenter led the babies and their parents through tapping out the beats in time with the music.”

“All the songs were in triple meter and relatively difficult for babies to learn,” she said.

A week later the babies underwent brain scans. “While sitting in the brain scanner, the babies listened to a series of music and speech sounds, each played out in a rhythm that was occasionally disrupted,” Zhao said. “The babies’ brains would show a particular response to indicate they could detect the disruption.”

Researchers found that the brains of the babies in the music exposure group were better able to respond to disruptions in speech and music rhythm.

The findings “have broadened our understanding of how infants learn speech sounds and shed some light on how the brain may process music and speech sounds similarly,” she said.