Back in 1993, a controversial study found that college students upped their IQ by 10 points after listening to Mozart. More specifically, “spatial-temporal abilities are enhanced” by listening to Mozart in 10 minute intervals over a period of time. The “Mozart effect,” as it became known, resulted in a trend among expectant parents to expose their infants, toddlers (even unborn children) to Mozart in an attempt to increase their IQ. (This trend was unofficially created by Disney to sell its hugely successful line of Baby Einstein CDs.)
Now, a group of Israeli doctors have plunged into this long-running debate with a small study that found the soothing sounds of the 18th century composer may help premature babies grow faster. The Associated Press reports that doctors at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center measured the energy expenditure of 20 infants born pre-term while listening to Mozart in their incubator. They compared that figure with the amount of energy they expended without the music.
Among the babies in the study, the findings showed Mozart lowered the quantity of energy they used, meaning the babies may be able to increase their weight faster. “While listening to this specific music, a baby can have a lower energy expenditure and hopefully he will gain weight faster than without music,” said Dr. Ronit Lubetzky, one of the main researchers in the study, which was published in the current issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.
Lubetzky said the reasons the babies used less energy listening to Mozart aren’t entirely clear, but it appeared to have relaxed them. “They might be more calm while listening to music, or they might have fewer stress hormones. All those things mean they have a lower heart and respiratory rate,” she said, meaning they spend less energy. The current scientists did not test a control group to measure the energy used by babies who didn’t listen to Mozart at all.