In 1993, a group of researchers at the University of California at Irvine found that after hearing 10 minutes of a sonata by Mozart, a group of 36 college undergraduates improved their spatial intelligence. After listening for 10 to 15 minutes, their IQ scores rose by eight to nine points. This phenomena was coined the "Mozart effect," a controversial idea that music can increase intelligence. Studies have since been conducted with little or no IQ improvement under similar circumstances. Although products may claim the contrary, various scientific studies have been conducted on the Mozart effect in various age groups, but there is no documentation proving that listening to Mozart or other classical music will increase intelligence in infants or babies.
Understanding the Beat
Research conducted at the Institute for Psychology at the University of Amsterdam Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Logic determined that infants as young as 2 days old can detect a beat in music. This ability was called "beat induction," allowing actions such as a hand clap, and humans are the only creatures considered to have it. Humans were previously thought to develop this skill in their first few months of life but are now thought to have a natural ability to understand rhythm, or obtain that ability while still in utero.
Comprehension of Pitch
EmCAP, a research project funded by the European Union, combined the knowledge of neuroscientists and musical technologists. The babies were connected to an EEG, or encephalograph, to measure their brain waves while a series of simple tones was played. Sounds of the same pitch were played, with sounds of a different pitch randomly interspersed. Results showed the babies to have sensitivity to the different pitches, further confirming a natural ability to comprehend music.
Some babies need simple, monotonous sounds known as white noise to help calm them. Dr. William Sears recommends, "Try music to sleep by, such as tape recordings of waterfalls or ocean sounds, or a medley of easy-listening lullabies on a continuous-play tape recorder. These sleep-inducing sounds remind baby of the sounds she was used to hearing in the womb." Fans, vacuum cleaners and running water are all examples of white noise "music" that can help an infant relax by reminding her of the uterine noise environment.
Singing a baby a soft, simple song is an age-old method of promoting relaxation. There are various CDs, tapes and MP3s of lullabies of all types. Some contain classic tracks such as "Hush Little Baby" or "Rock-a-Bye Baby," while others take modern songs and soften them for sensitive baby ears. Dr. Sears recommends making a tape of favorite lullabies to play before putting a baby down to sleep. If the baby wakes, the same music can be played, in theory calming the baby through the familiarity of the sound.