Music to the ears may be food for the brain,

Studies have shown that listening to music can influence our moods, but did you know this can also boost an infant’s brainpower? Based on a new study, allowing your baby to listen to music that has a waltz-like beat can help process speech sounds as well as music patterns for your little one.

The rhythm suggested is difficult for babies to understand and with the aid of parents tapping out the beats, this can produce much better results.

About the Study

The University of Washington researchers found that nine month old babies had an improvement on their speech and music recognition skills after they were exposed to music consistently. The study involved both parents and their babies listening to different versions of waltz. The pairs tapped the beats out using their feet or toy drums.

There were 19 babies in the control group, while 20 babies were exposed to songs in triple meter for about 15 minutes. A week later, the nine month olds had their brains scanned. The discoveries were promising:

  • Babies who listened to waltz understood its tempo.
  • Even though the rhythm of the music was altered, babies could still recognize the waltz music.
  • The brains of the babies showed that there was a difference in the way they respond to the music, especially when they notice an interruption.

How is this study useful? According to Patricia Kuhl, the lead author of this particular study, these discoveries display the huge impact of music in training the brain’s cognitive functioning, including pattern recognition. This can help improve the baby’s ability to talk at a younger age.

Music to the ears may be food for the brain / PicHelp
Music to the ears may be food for the brain / PicHelp

Language has regular patterns just like music, as explained by Kuhl. From the syllables’ timing to the different sounds that come out of the mouth, a person should be able to differentiate the speech sounds from the others in order to understand what other people are saying. These sounds and the ability to distinguish them are what allow babies to talk. To make it easier to understand, here’s an example: When we hear footsteps, the cognitive pattern detectors found in our brain start to act, giving us a clue about what we heard and what could happen next. Footsteps mean someone is coming.

The study reminds parents that encouraging their babies to engage in music can provide effects that can go beyond emotions. It can have a global effect on the infant’s ability to speak.