Music for Preemie
Thanks to medical advances, children who are born extremely early today have a comparatively good chance of survival. However, they often later suffer from neuropsychological disorders because their brains were not sufficiently developed at birth to process stimuli that hit them outside the womb. The subsequent stay in the intensive care unit does the rest - due to acoustic stress stimuli on the one hand and a lack of stimulating, pleasant noises on the other.
In order to stimulate the brain development of premature babies, researchers working with Lara Lordier from the Geneva University Hospital played short pieces of music specially composed for them five times a week to 20 children who had been born before the 32nd week of pregnancy. The babies listened to the sounds of bells, harps and flutes, which according to a preliminary study have a calming effect on premature babies, when waking up, falling asleep or during active waking phases.
Finally, when they left the preemie unit or at their due date, the researchers examined the children's brains in the brain scanner and compared the results with those of babies who were born at term and with a control group of preemie babies who did not listen to music had. They primarily focused on the so-called salience network, which among other things helps to filter environmental stimuli and initiate appropriate actions. As expected, it was less pronounced in premature babies without music intervention. The salience network of those premature babies who were regularly exposed to music, on the other hand, resembled that of children born after the normal gestation period.
It is still unclear whether the sounds will have a lasting effect. The team wants to answer this question in the next step: the first children from the study are now six years old. Further tests should now reveal how the premature babies have developed cognitively and neurologically.