One of the main priorities of doctors treating premature babies is to increase their body weight
Playing Mozart to premature babies can help them gain weight because they use less energy when calmed by listening to soothing melodies, scientists have found.
But the music of other composers including Beethoven and Bach does not have the same benefit because they do not have the same repetitive melodies, researchers said.
Experts said the findings suggest that playing Mozart could reduce the time babies spend in hospital, saving medical services millions of pounds as a result.
Researchers played Mozart to pre-term babies for 30 minutes and measured the energy they used and compared this against the amount of energy expended when the babies were “at rest”.
After hearing the music, the infants expended less energy, causing them to gain weight faster.
One of the main priorities of doctors treating premature babies is to increase their body weight so that they can be sent home.
Babies may be exposed to infections and other illnesses at the hospital and a healthy body weight keeps them immune to other problems in the future.
Dr Dror Mandel said the research would have wide-ranging implications for the treatment of premature babies.
“It’s not exactly clear how the music is affecting them, but it makes them calmer and less likely to be agitated,” he said.
“The repetitive melodies in Mozart’s music may be affecting the organizational centres of the brain’s cortex.
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“Unlike Beethoven, Bach or Bartok, Mozart’s music is composed with a melody that is highly repetitive. This might be the musical explanation. For the scientific one, more investigation is needed.”
The study, from the Tel Aviv University’s School of Medicine, was the first to quantify the effect of music, specifically Mozart, on newborn babies.
“Medical practitioners are aware that by changing the environment, we can create a whole new treatment paradigm for babies in neonatal care,” Dr Mandel said.
“That’s our main goal to improve their quality of life. The point of our research is to quantify these effects so that standards and care-guides can be developed. We still don’t know the long-term effects of the music, or if other kinds of music will work just as well.”
The study came about through an international project led by the US based consortium NIDCAP, which aims to create a set of standard practices to increase the health and well-being of premature babies.