Music Therapy Is Good For Preterm Infants

Music therapy (MT) is not only good but actually works for pre-term babies, according to a new meta-analysis of 14 studies conducted by Norwegian researchers. MT does so by helping pre-term babies develop sensory regulation and neurologic development.

In its recent edition, Pediatrics has featured a meta-analysis, led by Drs Christian Gold, Claire Ghetti and Lucja Bieleninik, regarding music therapy for premature infants and their parents. Although there have been several previous experiments about music therapy, this recent meta-analysis has analyzed the most meticulously planned and conducted experiments.

The three scientists have verified substantial benefits of music therapy in improving respiration rate of the infant and lowering the mother’s anxiety levels. Titled “Music Therapy for Preterm Infants and Their Parents: A Meta-analysis”, the examination was conducted in the Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Center of University of Bergen owned Uni Research Ltd, in Norway.

The analysis employed the much used random effects model to handle the heterogeneous experimental data from past researches. They used 14 reliable tests from a total of 1,803 conducted works.

The study calculated a significant decrease of 3.91 heartbeats per minute, on average, caused by music therapy among the 964 participating infants. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) tool was used to measure anxiety, and on average mothers experienced a 1.82 points decrease in anxiety levels due to the therapy.

Previous studies have established the adverse effects of maternal anxiety, chiefly a decline in both the mother’s and the infant’s health. Although depression gets more attention, acute postpartum state anxiety is much more prevalent as it’s found in 17% of new mothers while depression is found in 5.5% of new mothers.

Anxiety at this stage is linked to a decrease in the time period of breastfeeding and increases the healthcare expenses of the mother as she increases her visits to the doctor.

Psychologist Wayne Weiten writes in his book Psychology Themes and Variations that stimulation of the Sympathetic Division which increase the heart beat in infants may signal a tachycardia which can cause dizziness, difficulty in catching breath, chest pain and fatigue.

Furthermore, the increased heart beat results in an improper oxygen supply to the body. In the brain, lack of oxygen hinders the neural development of the infant. Praising the effects of music therapy, Susan Palmieri, a music therapist who worked in neonatal care at the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, reports: “None of us have seen anything like this, it’s unheard of for the heart rate not to go up.” She was talking to The Columbia News.

Susan uses a Gato box and a guitar, and synchronizes with the beat of the baby when conducting her 10-minute music therapy. She says that babies who are born preterm and stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) miss out on the ambiance in the mother’s womb, like her heart beat. Such premature babies often experience a reduced language and motor skill development because of a reduced neuro-development.

Susan also reveals the additional benefit of the therapy: “It’s also great for mom because it helps give her a sense of control and power over the situation.” This directly translates to the aforementioned reduced anxiety levels in the mothers.

The authors of the music therapy study selected randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of MT with standard care or comparison therapy. That helped in not only proving their findings against a placebo but also the standard care given and other prospective care strategies under consideration.

The three authors made the recommendation that parents should be involved in the care giving process at NICU, as their voices in the music therapy were also effective. Secondly, early interactions would create the bridge for a healthy relationship.

Although there is little margin for doubt regarding the study’s validity, there is room for further findings in the field about which the research scientists admitted in their article. The core element missing from their finding is a long term observational study.

The currently reported benefits are those observed in the short term. For example, they could measure the heartbeat rates of the participating infants and see how they trend with age. Possibly, new insights and benefits of music therapy might be revealed by such studies.

The writers also hinted that by comparing the results of different music therapies, we might be able to optimize the treatment relative to different circumstances of the infant.

Music therapy has its grounds in solid psychological findings which reveal that music can alleviate pain and alter the mood to a pleasant state. The major disorders where music therapy is helpful include autism, dementia, depression, infant development and sleep quality.

The mechanism of all types of music therapy involves a certain type of neurological stimulation. However self-therapy is not recommended as not all music has a beneficial effect. In fact several types of music can leave you agitated.

30 Comments
  1. Nofal Aizaz says

    Using music in an interactive way has positive effects on brain development. However, it’s not just any kind music that makes the difference. What’s important is the kind of music and how it is used, and that is much important . i think there is three kinds of music which is beneficial like, live ocean disc whoosh sounds, gato box rhythms, and parent’s sung lullabies . whereas noise can have a negative impact on growth and development.

    1. Mike David says

      Music has been proven to reduce heart and respiratory rates. In a study done by the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center, patients with coronary heart disease found listening to music beneficial in the forms of reduced blood pressure and reduced anxiety. While some of the results of this study were inconclusive, because of the questionable quality of the evidence, they still show the clinical benefits music therapy can produce.

      1. Nofal Aizaz says

        Exactly i agree with you totally !! heart beat reduces with music but if the music is of special kind

  2. Ariana Jack says

    Wow. I thought music was just to make babies sleep at night like a lullaby

    1. Jenny Kevin says

      Ariana! You’re a gem my dear

      1. Ariana Jack says

        Aww thanks

    2. Elena Lawrence says

      Good One Ariana

      1. Ariana Jack says

        I know

    3. Christina Stuart says

      Haha Now we know it has more than one benefit ! Lol

      1. Ariana Jack says

        yeah true

    4. Shanza Aleem says

      most people don’t know that

      1. Jenny Kevin says

        Count me one of them

      2. Elena Lawrence says

        Me too

    5. Nofal Aizaz says

      Haha but select the right kind of music

      1. Shanza Aleem says

        well no one would choose a hard-rock for children

        1. Nofal Aizaz says

          hahaha That is right !!

        2. Nofal Aizaz says

          There are just three kind of music which is beneficial Miss Shanza !!

      2. Jenny Kevin says

        It’s common sense dude

      3. Elena Lawrence says

        WOW very nice advise though

        1. Nofal Aizaz says

          Yup. that is very important because if one do not chose right kind of music then it might be harmful for infant

  3. Mike David says

    First, let me say that yes, anyone can use music to help people. However, it may be important to at least consult with a music therapist to assist in how to use that music effectively and not cause harm. I worked with a fabulous physical therapist when I lived in California and she used to say that prior to working with a music therapist, she was improperly using music. But, after some training from me, she was able to use music in her treatment much more effectively

    1. Nofal Aizaz says

      what do you mean by help People ?? R you a music therapist ??

    2. Nofal Aizaz says

      Ahan its great !! so would you like to share your experience with us ?? like which sort of music is beneficial and which is harmful Mr .Mike ???

    3. Ariana Jack says

      well children would listen to only soft music

    4. Jenny Kevin says

      Yeah right

    5. Elena Lawrence says

      Thank you Mr David

  4. Daniel Gill says

    Unfortunately, music can also cause some serious harm in the form of tinnitus or other permanent hearing loss/damage. Tinnitus can result from listening to music at high volumes or amplitudes. Tinnitus is a buzzing in the ears that ranges from slight to severe. Tinnitus is a highly subjective condition; some patients claim to perceive sounds of animals or even popular songs. Music has also been known to cause epileptic seizures, often resulting in psychiatric complications. In a book devoted to the studying of these rare cases, Oliver Sacks, a professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University, writes of a woman who could not listen to a certain popular song for more than half a minute without succumbing to violent convulsions.

    1. Nofal Aizaz says

      Yes That is what i want to tell . !! that is a major thing . !! and we should know this for this therapy

    2. Julia Smith says

      Agreed Daniel. But cant Agree with Oliver Sacks.

  5. Julia Smith says

    The science of music therapy, with its roots in the first half of the twentieth century, is still relatively young. With the proliferation of case studies, music is starting to make a comeback in the world of medicine, an area that has been relatively uncaring towards music therapy because of its seemingly mystical beginnings.

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