Listening to music during pregnancy benefits the baby’s brain’s ability to encode speech sounds

When pregnant women sing to their babies or listen to music on loudspeakers during their pregnancy, babies are born with a better ability for neuronal encoding of speech sounds. This is one of the main conclusions of a study led by Professor Carles Escera, head of Brainlab – Research Group on Cognitive Science at the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona, the Institute of Neurosciences of the UB (UBneuro) and the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute (IRSJD).

The results of this paper, published in the journal Developmental Science, provide new perspectives on the effects of prenatal musical exposure about language stimuli using a specific brain response: the frequency-following response (FFR), a neurophonic auditory evoked potential that informs about the appropriate neural coding of speech sounds.

According to the conclusions, daily musical exposure during the last weeks of the pregnancy is associated with an improved encoding of low-frequency sound compounds, which could improve the newborn’s perception of the tone.

The study was carried out in collaboration with the expert Lola Gómez-Roig, head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital and researcher at the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute (IRSJD). The study includes the participation of researcher Teresa Ribas-Prats (UB-UBneuro-IRSJD), who had already worked with this technique in a previous exploratory study in 2019.

The research team has recently received several competitive grants for knowledge transfer to validate this idea, specifically in the framework of the call for Proof of Concept, given by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, in addition to those corresponding to AGAUR’s Llavor initiative and the Proof of Concept of the call Fund for the Promotion of Innovation (F2I), managed through the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (FBG-UB).

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