Premature Babies Prefer Mozart to Bach, Israel Study Finds

Twelve preemies were exposed to Mozart, Bach and no music at all while measuring their absorption of oxygen and emission of carbon dioxide, enabling researchers to calculate the babies’ metabolic rates.

Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even
Dan Even

An Israeli study has demonstrated that listening to the music of Mozart is more conducive to the development of premature babies than is exposure to Bach.

Many studies have demonstrated the benefits of classical music to the development of babies. But the Ichilov Hospital research, led by Prof. Dror Mandel director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Ronit Lubetzky, the deputy director of the Department of Pediatrics, examined whether all classical compositions aid premature babies’ health or whether Mozart has a unique influence.

Twelve premature babies, born in the 30th week of pregnancy, averaging 1.2 kilos weight, were divided to three groups, who were each exposed to the music of Mozart on the first day, to Bach on the second day, and to no music at all on the third day. The music was played from Ipad’s placed outside the incubators, with earphones in the incubators adapted to the babies’ ears at a volume of 75 decibels. An instrument measuring the absorption of oxygen and emission of carbon dioxide was attached to the babies, enabling researchers to calculate the babies’ metabolic rates.

The compositions chosen for the study from Baby Mozart and Baby Bach discs were calm, and not performed by large orchestras. Following only half an hour of exposure to Mozart’s music, the metabolic rate dropped by 9.7 percent in comparison to babies who weren’t exposed to music at all. Listening to Bach led to a drop of 4.5 percent in the metabolic rate, in comparison to those not exposed to music, but this drop wasn’t deemed to be statistically significant.

The effect of Mozart’s music was very swift: Ten minutes after beginning to listen to his music, the metabolic rate dropped by 4.5 percent. This drop continued as the music went on, in comparison to the babies who weren’t exposed to music.
“Lowering the metabolism rate of premature babies causes them to lose fewer calories and increase their weight faster, which is a positive state,” Mandel explains.

“In medical literature, there is an assumption that repeating musical themes, characteristic to most of Mozart’s compositions, is partially responsible for the calming and beneficial effect of the music.”

Hila Rosenfeld Keidar M.D. and Prof. Francis Meimoni, head of Pediatrics at Ichilov, took part in the study, whose conclusions will be presented today at the annual conference of the Israeli Society of Pediatrics in Tel Aviv. An earlier study by Ichilov staff, published in January 2010 in Pediatrics, also revealed that listening to Mozart slowed down the metabolic rate.

“Exposing premature babies to music is considered a relatively new issue, and one can’t change procedures as a result of such a small survey as the one we carried out,” Mandel says. “In our neonatal intensive care unit, when preemies don’t gain enough weight, I recommend to their mothers that they expose them to Mozart in an effort to improve their condition.”

The effect of Baby Mozart discs and their possible benefits began with controversial studies in the 1990’s, which pointed to an increase in intelligence quotients of babies who were exposed to Mozart. But this effect was also noticed in babies listening to other classical composers. Mozart’s compositions were proved to affect not only the wellbeing of babies and premature babies, but also children with various diseases.

Thus, for example, a study published last December pointed to a decrease in the activity of the epileptic focus in children diagnosed with the disorder who listened to Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C ‏(K545‏). A study published a month earlier showed improvement in the condition of patients suffering from tinnitus, a condition causing a ringing sound in the ears, after listening to Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos in D ‏(K448‏). Another study, held in 2001, proved that this same sonata led to a decrease in the activity of the epileptic focus among adult epileptics.

New-born babies listen to music through headphones in the maternity ward of the first pivate hospital in Kosice-Saca on January 3, 2007, Kosice, Slovak Republic.Credit: Zarnayova/isifa/Getty Images

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