Does playing classical music affect babies' brain development?


Fact Box

Takashi (Yes)

Music has been one of the most popular expressions of creativity among humans. Actually, humans seem to be the only species on Earth capable of creating and enjoying music solely for entertainment. This interest in music has led some researchers to look into the possibility that music—classical music, especially—might be beneficial for newborns and infants. You'd be surprised to know that several benefits can be derived from classical music, especially for babies.

It's proven babies' brains develop at an astonishing rate during their first three years of life. During these years, their brains are exposed to a myriad of stimuli. Music has shown to be a very beneficial stimulus since babies can begin to learn how music is structured and react to it, as they already do with voices around them. As their brains deconstruct classical music, their neurons fire up—or interact with one another at amazing speed—trying to comprehend what's being played. Since 90% of brain development occurs during a child's first five years of life, areas in the brain responsible for language, emotion, and movement can be positively affected by classical music.

Likewise, music affects people's moods, so it's no surprise it can also have some positive effects on babies. The relaxing effects of classical music are well known. Babies benefit from its advantages and enjoy its soothing effect. Listening improves sleeping for everyone and alleviates stress since cognitive health is also affected by music. Cognitive health includes improved memory, better motor skills and clear thinking. Finally, parents and their children will surely experience a deeper bonding as they teach their kids about the diversity, variation, and vast history that surrounds classical music. 

Ellen (No)

One popular strategy parents employ to help their children have advantages in their mental development is playing classical music for them while they are infants through adolescence. Called the 'Mozart effect,' and touted as helping raise baby IQs, among other positives, the theory was only initially tested on college students, who performed specific cognitive tests with improvement after listening to Mozart's works. Some believed this could create baby geniuses. However, research suggests not necessarily. Although the idea appears to help what a 2018 Quartz article calls 'conundrums presented by child-rearing, [such as getting] kids to eat [...] and, of course, learn.' Unfortunately, it's little more than a simple answer to a holistic game plan of helping children learn well and become more intelligent. 

The claim classical music is akin to digesting a multivitamin has been debated and 'proven to be controversial' at best. Could other musical genres work just as well? Generally speaking, music is the stimulant to better results in certain cognitive test studies compared to silence. Furthermore, passively playing classical music in the background for one's child is insufficient nurturing. Are the Baby Mozart media products little more than marketing gimmicks? Scientific American argues 'keeping (babies) engaged via social activity' is most important, as 'that is the key to a truly intelligent child, not the symphonies of a long-dead Austrian composer.'

Classical music is about more than beautiful pieces from various composers. Do babies react well to jarring, clamorous works by Varese, Partch, or Berg? What about playing jazz, folk, rock, and pop as well? Classical music doesn't have a monopoly on making a child's brain smarter, so parents should break the Mozart mold and explore all music options.

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