Is anybody REALLY surprised to find that babies respond to music? I don’t mean the so-called “Mozart effect,” which has been pretty well debunked at this point – even though lots of unscrupulous producers continue to market Classical Lite recordings to gullible parents. I mean the recent studies that show, through the use of brain mapping technology, how different parts of the brain are activated by exposure to music. After all, any parent has probably noticed that the best ways to calm a squalling or sleepless infant involve rhythm. Bouncing a baby, for example, is an almost-instinctual response for most parents.
When I became a dad, we lived in an apartment that had a little saddle between the kitchen floor and the living room floor – just to ease the transition between the two, since the kitchen was marginally higher. But I soon discovered that I could put my daughter in her little stroller and roll the stroller back and forth over this bump, and voila – she would quiet down, and the rhythm of the movement over this bump would often lull her to sleep. Of course, singing to babies is a natural, instinctive thing to do – and many’s the night I spent trying to get my daughter to sleep and keep myself sane by running through all the Peter Gabriel songs I knew the words to. It never seemed to matter what the songs were – Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer in the sticky heat of a July night was as serviceable as anything else.
The surprise is in learning how all these neural connections are being made – aural pathways being cleared – in the baby’s brain when that baby is exposed to music. EEG technology has made it possible to watch that process happening. And that is, quite frankly, freaking me out. What if I chose BAD songs? What irreparable harm have I done to my girls? I mean, I didn’t realize is I was BUILDING THEIR BRAINS!!!
If you’re a parent, tell us how used (or abused) music and rhythm with your baby.