Rhythmic music helps babies’ social development, study finds

Singing to babies is a common practice in most cultures. Lullabies are known to have a calming effect on the child. However, it can do much more than that. Involving newborns in music can be a technique for stimulating social development in children as young as two months old. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PANS) found that musical sensitivity can help children’s social development. The research, which involved 112 infants, tracked the infants’ gaze moment by moment. Researchers found that this behavior synchronized with social cues provided by caregivers when music was involved.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Marcus Autism Center, and Emory University School of Medicine enrolled 112 two- and six-month-old infants in their research. They found that infants synchronize their gaze with singing directed at them. Moreover, they are also drawn into the social cues of caregivers at sub-second time scales.

The study found that two-month-old babies were twice as likely to look into singers’ eyes based on musical rhythm compared to what would usually happen by chance.

Six-month-olds were more than four times more likely to watch singers’ eyes sync to musical beats. While two-month-olds are just beginning to interact with others interactively for the first time, six-month-olds are generally very experienced in face-to-face musical play and are at a stage where they are developing more in addition. sophisticated rhythmic and communicative behaviors.

Miriam Lense, Ph.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology and co-director of the music cognition lab at VUMC, said, “Here we show that when caregivers sing to their infants, they intuitively structure their behavior to support the caregiver-infant social bond and the infant. social learning.

However, not all types of music will yield the same results. This trained social interaction relies heavily on a predictable singing rhythm. When the researchers experimentally manipulated the singing so that it no longer had a predictable rhythm, the training was disrupted. Infants failed to synchronize their gaze with caregivers’ social cues.

Reyna Gordon, PhD, associate professor of otolaryngology and co-director of the Music Cognition Lab at VUMC, pointed out that the study reveals that making music is an essential aspect of early social-emotional development.

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Joel C. Hicks