Israeli medical researchers have found that listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart encourages premature babies to develop more quickly than those exposed to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Providing a new twist on the so-called “Mozart effect” which refers to research that showed that listening to the music of Mozart improves special reasoning skills, the Israeli researchers played the pre-term infants the music of Mozart on the first day, Bach on the second, and no music on the third.

New Study Finds that Premature Babies Develop Faster When Listening to this Composer

Researchers played music from the Baby Mozart collection.

Haaretz reports that the doctors at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center wanted to ascertain if all classical music has a beneficial impact on preemies, or if Mozart has a unique influence. Twelve babies were recruited for the study, all born in the 30th week of pregnancy with an average weight of 2.5 pounds. Doctors played music from the popular Baby Mozart and Baby Einstein collections rather than pieces performed by large orchestras.

Haaretz provides details of the study:

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.[…]

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.

Prof. Dror Mandel who led the study along with Dr. Ronit Lubetzky and is director of Tel Aviv Sourasky’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit tells Haaretz, “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,” he added.

New Study Finds that Premature Babies Develop Faster When Listening to this Composer

Mozart painting by Barbara Krafft (Public domain painting via Wikipedia)

Though Mandel concedes the study of 12 babies is not a large enough group on which to base a change in treatment, he 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 same team conducted a study in 2010 which showed that premature babies exposed to Mozart’s music gained weight faster than those who listened to no music at all. The new study aimed to discover if classical music in general helps the preemies gain weight or if it is attributed to listening specifically to 18th century Mozart’s works.

According to Science Daily, the 2010 study “found that pre-term infants exposed to thirty minutes of Mozart’s music in one session, once per day expend less energy — and therefore need fewer calories to grow rapidly — than when they are not ‘listening’ to the music.”

Besides writing about the Middle East for TheBlaze, Sharona Schwartz is author of the children’s novel about classical music, Perfect Pitch.