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Second “Mozart effect”? Premature babies may grow faster

Dec. 14, 2009
Special to World Science  

Hearing Mo­zart’s mu­sic might make prem­a­ture ba­bies grow faster by re­duc­ing their rate of en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture, a study has found.

Re­search­ers are dub­bing the phe­nom­e­non a sec­ond “Mo­zart Ef­fec­t,” in ref­er­ence to pre­vi­ous find­ings that clas­si­cal mu­sic may lead to tem­po­rary per­for­mance im­prove­ments on cer­tain men­tal tasks.

Past re­search has al­so found that mu­sic re­duces stress, low­ers the heart rate and even im­proves the rate of weight gain in pre­term in­fants, ac­cord­ing to Ronit Lu­bet­zky and col­leagues at Tel Aviv Un­ivers­ity in Is­ra­el, who con­ducted the new study.

The re­search­ers de­cid­ed to test wheth­er such a weight gain im­prove­ment could be caused by in­creased ef­fi­cien­cy of me­tab­o­lism. They in­ves­t­i­gated the hy­poth­e­sis in 20 nor­mal preterm in­fants, half of whom were ran­domly as­signed to be ex­posed to Mo­zart mu­sic for half an hour on two con­sec­u­tive days.

The sci­en­tists meas­ured ba­bies’ en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture us­ing in­di­rect cal­o­rim­e­try, which tal­lies the rate of cal­o­rie burn­ing in their bod­ies based on their ox­y­gen in­take.

Dur­ing the first 10 min­utes of mu­sic, ba­bies’ en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture was si­m­i­lar to those who were not ex­posed to mu­sic, but dur­ing the sec­ond and third 10-minute pe­ri­ods this changed, Lu­bet­zky and col­leagues found. Dur­ing that time, the mu­sic-ex­posed in­fants were mea­sured to have a sig­nif­i­cantly low­er rest­ing en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture.

“This ef­fect of mu­sic on REE [rest­ing en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture] might ex­plain, in part, the im­proved weight gain that re­sults from this ‘Mo­zart ef­fect,’” the team wrote. How­ev­er, they not­ed that the find­ings are ten­ta­tive be­cause “our study is a pi­lot study in na­ture, lim­it­ed to a very short pe­ri­od of 30 min­utes, and re­flects only REE, a com­po­nent of but not all of to­tal en­er­gy ex­pend­i­ture.”

The find­ings are pub­lished in the Dec. 7 on­line is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Pe­di­at­rics.


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Listening to Mozart’s music might make premature babies grow faster by reducing their rate of energy expenditure, a study has found. Researchers are dubbing the phenomenon a second “Mozart Effect,” in reference to previous findings that classical music may lead to temporary performance improvements on certain mental tasks. Past research has also found that music reduces stress, lowers the heart rate and even improves the rate of weight gain in preterm infants, according to Ronit Lubetzky and colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel, who conducted the new stduy. The researchers decided to test whether such a weight gain improvement could be caused by increased efficiency of metabolism. They investigated the hypothesis in 20 normal preterm infants, half of whom were randomly assigned to be exposed to Mozart music for half an hour on two consecutive days. The scientists measured babies’ energy expenditure using indirect calorimetry, which tallies the rate of calorie burning in their bodies based on their oxygen intake. During the first 10 minutes of music, babies’ energy expenditure was similar to those who were not exposed to music, but during the second and third 10-minute period this changed, Lubetzky and colleagues found. During that time, the music-exposed infants were found to have a significantly lower resting energy expenditure. “This effect of music on REE [resting energy expenditure] might explain, in part, the improved weight gain that results from this ‘Mozart effect,’” the team wrote. However, they noted that the findings are tentative because “our study is a pilot study in nature, limited to a very short period of 30 minutes, and reflects only REE, a component of but not all of total energy expenditure.” The findings are published in the Dec. 7 online issue of the research journal Pediatrics.