Health Scan: Music to grow by

Also: Getting kids to take the first puff.

March 21, 2010 08:28
3 minute read.
Health Scan: Music to grow by

health scan 88. (photo credit: )


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Music played in intensive-care units for premature newborns helps them grow, according to researchers at the Liss Maternity Hospital of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. Dr. Dror Mandel and Dr. Ronit Lubetzky, who published their findings recently in the journal Pediatrics, found that pre-term infants exposed to half an hour of Mozart daily expend less energy – and therefore need fewer calories to grow rapidly – than when they are not listening to the music.

The research is based on a controversial 1993 study showing that college students improved their IQs by listening to a Mozart sonata for 10 minutes. When the study was reported, parents everywhere started buying Mozart CDs, hoping to boost their children’s brainpower. Mandel says it’s not exactly clear how the music is affecting infants, “but it makes them calmer.” After hearing the music, the infants expended less energy, a process that can lead to faster weight gain.

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When it comes to premature babies, one of the main priorities is to get the baby to an acceptable body weight so he or she can be sent home. At the hospital, preterm babies may be exposed to infections and other illnesses, and a healthy body weight keeps them immune to other problems in the future. While the scientists are not sure what triggers the response, Mandel offers one hypothesis. “The repetitive melodies in Mozart’s music may be affecting the organizational centers of the brain’s cortex,” he says. “Unlike Beethoven, Bach or Bartok, Mozart’s music is composed with a melody that is highly repetitive. This might be the musical explanation. For the scientific one, more investigation is needed.”

Soon the Tel Aviv researchers will start exploring different kinds of music to see if they can measure any similar effects. One has suggested that rap music might evoke the same response as Mozart, since the pulsating and repetitive frequency in Mozart’s music can be found in contemporary urban music as well.


Tobacco company claims that their ads only attract purchasers of other cigarette brands have been proven wrong. A new German-American study has found that the more cigarette ads teens see, the greater their risk of taking a puff. “Cigarettes have created a brand for every personality trait,” says study lead author Dr. Reiner Hanewinkel, director of the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany. The research appears online and in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,
“If you are looking to project independence and masculinity, think of the lonely cowboy in the Marlboro ads,” adds Hanewinkel, who collaborated with Dartmouth Medical School. “On the other hand, if you’re looking to project a desire for romantic relationships, then you will choose Lucky Strike if you are a man and Virginia Slims if you are a woman."

Kids with high exposure to tobacco advertising were twice as likely to have tried smoking and three times as likely to have smoked in the past month, compared to those with low exposure.

The study encompassed 3,415 urban and rural German schoolchildren aged 10 to 17. With the brand information missing, researchers measured adolescents’ ad recognition by applying psychological assumptions about attention and memory. They inquired about how frequently the youngsters had viewed each ad image, and asked about smoking habits and intentions. “We were amazed at how often they had seen the images and could correctly recall the cigarette brand,” says study collaborator Prof. James Sargent of Dartmouth. “For example, 55 percent had seen the Lucky Strike image and almost one-quarter correctly decoded the brand.”


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