The magic of music, babies

University of Miami researchers studying how infants respond to songs

Author: Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 02 2014 09:48:31 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 03 2014 06:20:00 AM EST
MIAMI, Fla. -

We already know that music is the universal language, but researchers at the University of Miami are studying how infants respond to songs.  When do little ones feel the beat? And how can mommy's singing teach babies to control their emotions? 

University of Miami Researcher Shannon de l'Etoile has spent years studying how a mother's music can influence her child's development.  It's called  Infant Directed Singing.  Shannon found it does more than create a bond, it also helps babies learn focus and self control.

"It also helps them learn to modulate,, so they are not too over aroused or under-aroused, so they are in the zone," she said.

Jillian Bracken finds that music helps her structure her daughter Trudy's day.

"Kind of a cue for her activities," she said. "I have songs that i sing in the morning to wake up and one at night to show it's time for bed."

Researchers got the idea for another study off YouTube, when they saw adorable twins bopping to the sound of their daddy's guitar. The question: music and movement, when does the beat kick in?

Researchers are using a Jolly Jumper to study the development of something called  rhythmic entrainment.

"You might be walking down the street and a car goes by with the radio going thump thump thump  and the next thing you are walking.  Thump thump thump," Shannon explained.

When this ability emerges is the focus of this study. Babies are given motion sensors and are exposed to various music and tempos. Their every movement is fed into a computer, giving researchers a little more insight into sensory and motor development.

"The way that the infant responds to a particular musical stimulus tells us a lot about how the human brain is wired to perceive and make sense of music and respond to music," said Shannon.

When the researchers from the University of Miami are done with their study, we'll get a better idea of when and how babies feel the beat. It could be another vital sensory development  milestone for parents and pediatricians to know.