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Music May Help Babies Develop Better Speech Skills

Music May Help Babies Develop Better Speech Skills

Hans Christian Andersen may have said, “When words fail, music speaks,” and now science has proven that music may actually help to develop babies’ speech skills. 

The study, published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), found that infants exposed to waltz music for 12 sessions were more likely to respond to speech, as they did with the music.

The groups of 47 9-month-olds were divided into two: one that listens to music, and one that plays with non-musical toys. The musical group played with maracas, and danced and bounced to waltz music, while the other group played with toy cars, blocks, and other objects. Waltz music is set in triple meter time, which makes it a more complex beat to listen to.

Then, the babies had brain scans using magnetoencephalogy, which assesses neural responses. Researchers found that these responses were larger in the group that listened to music, and the babies were better at recognizing patterns.

"Babies experience patterns and they learn to be master pattern detectors," Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study and head of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, told NBC News.

Foreign syllables were also introduced to the babies, and those that listened to music processed the other languages better than those that did not. However, more studies need to be developed to prove these findings.

"This means that early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills," Christina Zhao, co-author of the study, told NBC News.

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Photo credit: Bigstock/HighwayStarz
Main photo: Babies play with maracas and tambourines.

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