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Music May Help Babies Develop Speech Sound And Music Patterns

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Music just may help develop babies ability to process speech sounds and patterns.

A recent study found that infants who listened to music that had a waltz-like rhythm, and tapped out the beats with their parents, improved how their brain responded to speech sounds and music patterns, according to HealthDay News.

Lead researcher T. Christina Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle, says that,

Actively participating in music may be another important experience that can influence infants’ brain development and help them learn.

The study is unclear however, on how long the effects of listening to music may last in a child and how much exposure is necessary to make significant improvements in speech and music-pattern recognition.

There have been a number of studies on how music affects brain development in early childhood. Commonly known as the “Mozart effect,” these researches have shown mixed findings, partly due to the fact that each study was designed differently.

For this particular project, the researchers assigned 39 babies who were nine months old to two groups: 19 babies made up the control group and played with toys while 20 babies heard “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,” Zhao explains. “All the songs were in triple meter, like in a waltz, which the researchers chose because they’re relatively difficult for babies to learn.”

There were 12 sessions of 15 minutes each in one month. A week after the sessions wrapped up, all the babies went through 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.”

The babies who were exposed to music and the tapping patterns demonstrated better ability to respond to speech and music pattern disruptions.

How does this help learning in early childhood? Zhao says that the results “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.”

Zhao and her team are hoping to find out if these effects can last, and if so, how much exposure is needed. They are also looking towards learning how listening to music can boost an infant’s brainpower in general.

This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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