Premature Babies Aided By Music Get Backing

Trials show that music reduces stress levels in premature infants.

A new study by The Institute for Music and Brain Science at Harvard University on the benefits of music on premature babies has received substantial backing from science activist, Jeffrey Epstein and his foundation, The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation. The study was conducted with the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Every year 4 million babies (12.5 percent) in the US are born prematurely, accounting for two thirds of infant deaths. Currently, the US has one of the highest rates of infant mortality, ranking 29th amongst industrial nations. It's an appalling statistic.

The study looked at how vocal music decreases stress by analyzing autonomic and motor responses in 13 premature infants at the Massachusetts General Hospital Neonatal Special Care Unit. Using a clinical trial model, the effect of blood test punctures on heart and respiratory rates were evaluated. Seven neonates then received auditory stimulation within 115 seconds and six neonates were not stimulated. The punctures caused protracted increases in both heart and respiratory rates in all babies. Neonates stimulated with vocal music after pain onset, showed a greater decrease in heart rate over time (12 percent over 10 minutes) than unstimulated infants. Auditory stimulation had no significant effect on respiratory rates.

The results, though seemingly insignificant, suggest that auditory stimulation reduces pain and stress in premature infants via connections between the central auditory system and brainstem systems modulating autonomic outflow to the heart.

"There is a clear correlation between music and stress levels," Jeffrey Epstein asserted. "And that is an exciting first step."

The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation supports scientific research around the world. In 2003, it gave a $30 million grant to Harvard to establish the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, the first of its kind to study evolutionary biology from a mathematical point of view.

Founded by Dr. Mark Tramo, the Institute for Music and Brain Science aims to combat neurological diseases using music as a lens into the brain and as a rehabilitator. Dr. Tramo is an Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Attending Neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.