Pregnancy Music for Fetal Development: Mozart or Bach?
Conception FAQs >> Pregnancy Music for Fetal Development: Mozart or Bach?
Can music affect fetal brain
development? If so, what musical composers, genre, or style will make my baby
smarter, more creative, more sociable, or more...better?
These questions are certainly
interesting ones for expectant couples. However, despite a rather suspect study
suggesting that Mozart will help your baby's brain grow, the jury is out. The
study in question was associated with a Baby-Mozart brain-enhancing product
that putatively noted that the particular structure of, say, a Mozart string
quartet offered more "formative" stimulation than other genres or
even other classical composers like Bach or Beethoven. Such claims have been
soundly debunked. But that does not mean that prenatal music or concert-going
does not have benefits - its simply difficult to prove the case!
In theory, prenatal sonic
stimulation may yield some positive results, including many of the same benefits
that have been more scientifically-established by the prenatal consumption of
Omega-3 fatty acids. Such purported benefits include enhanced attention spans,
improved sleep patterns, increased cognitive development, and sharper language
skills. Unfortunately, various products that make affirmative claims about the
impact of music on fetal development during pregnancy have scant evidence (mostly
anecdotal) upon which to base such claims. The fact is, there may be too many
variables to sort out the impact of song and sound, including diet, general
health, the consumption of various foods containing Omega-3s or other vital
nutrients, or even ambient sound - the pitch and tenor of voices, dialogue,
and daily life. And what of reading to your unborn baby? In effect, fetal development
many be too complex, too multi-faceted to ever determine if music - let alone
a specific style or genre - can affect your baby in a certain way. A few more cautious doctors suggest that an unborn baby's physical reactions (heart rates, movements) to music may stem from discomfort rather than comfort.
That said, there certainly
is an intuitive sense that sonic stimulation - at reasonable volumes - sure
can't hurt. However, choice of music may offer something to contemplate, especially
if you consider that plants apparently flourish - and grow toward - calmer classical
music, while actively avoiding blaring heavy metal. A number of studies have
contrasted the effects of different forms of music on plant growth, and classical
forms always seems to win out when it comes to a plant's preferred choice of
musical style. In addition, animal studies indicate that exposure to "chaotic"
or "atonal" music alters brain structure in a negative way. In the
case of classical vs. rock music, the issue may be less the notational/chordal
structure of the musical composition than the mediated difference between a
cello or an electric guitar run through a "tube-screamer".
The case of atonal music
brings up a more interesting question: Is it the non-repetitive structure, complex
rhythms, or non-traditional scales associated with discordant music that is
the issue here? Or was "chaotic music" played too loudly or on abrasive or "prepared"
instruments - via distorted guitars or via quarter-tone pianos
(ala Charles Ives) or via 12-Tone serial operas (ala Schoenberg)? It's unlikely
that scientists researching in this area took into consideration that difference
between, say, Schoenberg's atonal and serial phases. Moreover, this does not
answer the question whether a baby prefers calmer, more sonorous or spatial
classical music to more intricate or energetic works of the same genre.
Which of course begs other
questions: Is the architectonic majesty of classical music, the works of a Bach
or Mozart, the possible key to supporting sound fetal development? Will Shostakovich's
frequent minor keys and heavy themes depress my baby? Will Stockhausen freak
him or her out? Will Morton Feldman put baby to sleep? And how about jazz, rock
or techno? What's good for the baby's brain?!?
Despite plant and animal
research, experts working with humans are reluctant to make any positive correlation
between music and smarter babies. While learning piano may support a child's
"spatial reasoning and math skills", experts are not willing to generalize
such conclusions to fetal development during pregnancy. At best, doctor's surmise
there may be a positive connection, but only based on a web of anecdotal evidence.
Other researchers, however, do indicate that unborn babies do respond to various
rhythmic qualities of music, based on fetal breathing patterns that conform
to musical rhythm, suggesting music does have a "sympathetic" effect.
At any rate, there are tons
of musical kits and products out there promising to "Build Your Baby's
Brain", calm your baby with "Healing Lullabies", or tone the
synapses with sonic "Prenatal Education Systems". And certainly, you
do not need to buy a "kit" to surround your child with the sounds
of Bach, Beethoven, or Chopin. Ambient sounds from your stereo will reach your
baby, and some women elect to put headphones around their stomachs for a more
direct approach. In either case, doctors do advise avoiding loud music
that might startle or possibly hurt the baby - as well as avoiding
overly long sessions that may "overstimulate". In short, because the
jury is still out on how music affects fetal development, experts suggest moderation
and mild volume when it comes to sonic stimulation. Perhaps the best suggestion
is to simply relax and enjoy music the way you normally do - and chances are
your baby will relax along with you.
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