Health Scan: Music to grow by

Also: Getting kids to take the first puff.

Music played in intensive-care units for premature newborns helps themgrow, according to researchers at the Liss Maternity Hospital of TelAviv Sourasky Medical Center and Tel Aviv University's Sackler Schoolof Medicine. Dr. Dror Mandel and Dr. Ronit Lubetzky, who publishedtheir findings recently in the journal Pediatrics, found that pre-terminfants exposed to half an hour of Mozart daily expend less energy –and therefore need fewer calories to grow rapidly – than when they arenot listening to the music.
The research is based on a controversial 1993 study showing thatcollege students improved their IQs by listening to a Mozart sonata for10 minutes. When the study was reported, parents everywhere startedbuying Mozart CDs, hoping to boost their children’s brainpower. Mandelsays it’s not exactly clear how the music is affecting infants, “but itmakes them calmer.” After hearing the music, the infants expended lessenergy, a process that can lead to faster weight gain.
When it comes to premature babies, one of the main priorities is to getthe baby to an acceptable body weight so he or she can be sent home. Atthe hospital, preterm babies may be exposed to infections and otherillnesses, and a healthy body weight keeps them immune to otherproblems in the future. While the scientists are not sure what triggersthe response, Mandel offers one hypothesis. “The repetitive melodies inMozart’s music may be affecting the organizational centers of thebrain’s cortex,” he says. “Unlike Beethoven, Bach or Bartok, Mozart’smusic is composed with a melody that is highly repetitive. This mightbe the musical explanation. For the scientific one, more investigationis needed.”
Soon the Tel Aviv researchers will start exploring different kinds ofmusic to see if they can measure any similar effects. One has suggestedthat rap music might evoke the same response as Mozart, since thepulsating and repetitive frequency in Mozart’s music can be found incontemporary urban music as well.
Tobacco company claims that their ads only attract purchasers of othercigarette brands have been proven wrong. A new German-American studyhas found that the more cigarette ads teens see, the greater their riskof taking a puff. “Cigarettes have created a brand for everypersonality 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 ofthe lonely cowboy in the Marlboro ads,” adds Hanewinkel, whocollaborated with Dartmouth Medical School. “On the other hand, ifyou’re looking to project a desire for romantic relationships, then youwill choose Lucky Strike if you are a man and Virginia Slims if you area woman."
Kids with high exposure to tobacco advertising were twice as likely tohave tried smoking and three times as likely to have smoked in the pastmonth, compared to those with low exposure.
The study encompassed 3,415 urban and rural German schoolchildren aged10 to 17. With the brand information missing, researchers measuredadolescents’ ad recognition by applying psychological assumptions aboutattention and memory. They inquired about how frequently the youngstershad viewed each ad image, and asked about smoking habits andintentions. “We were amazed at how often they had seen the images andcould correctly recall the cigarette brand,” says study collaboratorProf. James Sargent of Dartmouth. “For example, 55 percent had seen theLucky Strike image and almost one-quarter correctly decoded the brand.”