Your soon-to-be-born baby may already be belting a tune or two.
New research from the Instituto Marques in Barcelona found that babies who can hear music clearly while in the womb will actually sing along with the music. Specifically, babies will move their mouths and tongues “as if they were trying to speak or sing” when they hear music, lead researcher Dr. Marisa Lopez-Teijon told the Daily Mail.
To find this, researchers played music — Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita in A Minor — for pregnant women who were between their 14th and 39th weeks of pregnancy, the Daily Mail reported. The song was first played on their baby bumps, and then played again with the use of the BabyPod, a device developed just for the study that increased sound, the Daily Mail reported.
After some ultrasound scans, researchers found that when music was played on the baby bump, 45 percent of fetuses responded with movements, 30 percent moved their mouths and tongues and 10 percent just moved their tongues.
But when music was played using the BabyPod device, 87 percent of the fetuses responded with head and limb movements and 50 percent opened “their jaw very wide and sticking their tongue out as far as it would go,” the Daily Mail reported.
The study is an important find for researchers because it proves babies develop hearing capabilities as early as 16 weeks old, not 18 weeks as many believed, the study suggested.
In a larger context, though, this new research means that parents can start developing their child’s brain from an earlier age, since playing music to soon-to-be newborns has been linked to multiple benefits.
As GlobalPost’s Cara Batema reported, music creates “an auditory means of stimulation” that helps babies develop their brain, which needs “sensory input for the cells to build and connect.” And because music includes language and sound, it could help a baby’s brain develop cognitive skills early on, making them even smarter later in life, Batema wrote.
Similarly, playing classical music to newborns has some benefits since classical music includes “synapses” that are often used for “spatial and temporal reasoning,” both of which are necessary for mathematics and other logic-based learning, according to Batema.
In fact, this concept, often called the “Mozart Effect,” dates back to 1993, when the journal Science published a study that said music by Mozart can improve one’s intelligence.
According to The Telegraph, the study found college students who listened to Mozart before “a test that measured spatial relationship skills did better than students who took the test after listening to another musician or no music at all.”
Since that time, other researchers have said the same applies to newborns, too, The Telegraph reported.
But that may not be the case.
As Nikhil Swaminathan from Scientific American wrote in 2007, the idea of the “Mozart Effect,” where children gain benefits from hearing music, doesn’t always happen, and may be more of a myth, Swaminathan wrote.
In fact, Stanford researchers in 2004 found that a 1999 study that linked music to brain development and higher IQs may not actually be completely true.
“It seems to be a circumscribed manifestation of a widespread, older belief that has been labeled ‘infant determinism,’ the idea that a critical period early in development has irreversible consequences for the rest of a child’s life,” the researchers wrote in the 2004 study, according to Swaminathan. “It is also anchored in older beliefs in the beneficial powers of music.”
But other research has found music and lullabies have helped young babies learn and develop. For example, a 2012 study out of McMaster University found that 1-year-olds smiled more, had better communication skills and had “more sophisticated brain responses to music” when they listened to music before they could walk or talk.
No matter what the science says, though, BabyCenter suggests that music has the power to help your child, much in the same way it helps adults.
“Think about how music affects you — how an upbeat tune chases away the blues and soft music helps you fall asleep,” BabyCenter explained. “Your baby is no different.”
Herb Scribner, www.national.deseretnews.com, www.msidallas.com