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Babies 'learn music' while sleeping

world Updated: Feb 28, 2009 12:01 IST
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Believe it or not, babies are sensitive to music even while sleeping.

A new study, funded by the European Union, has shown that newborns have a sense of pitch from birth, and it is not something learned through experience as earlier believed in fact, infants are even sensitive to the beat in music.

"The bottom line is we come into the world with brains that are continually looking for patterns, and telling us when there is something unexpected we should learn about," Susan Denham, who led the study, said.

Researchers have based their findings on an analysis of an experiment in which sleeping babies were hooked up to an encephalograph, an instrument able to measure brain activity using electrodes placed on the scalp.

The babies were then played music to be more exact, simplified tone sequences to test what sort of patterns they were sensitive to and whether they would predict what was coming next based on what had gone before.

"The babies were presented with sequences of sounds of different tone colour different musical instruments, if you like but all of the same pitch. Occasionally, you play a sound of a different pitch and watch the EEG to see if they produce a distinctive reaction to this sound," Denham said.

Similar tests were done to see if babies're sensitive to rhythmic and melodic patterns. And, the results revealed that babies have a sense of pitch from birth.

According to Denham, the technique has seldom been used with newborns. "The big advantage is that it can work even when somebody is unconscious. So the babies being asleep was not a problem."