The Newest Tool for Preemies Is Your Voice, Study Finds

ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
Feb 2016
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Photo: Getty Images

From smarter incubators to higher level NICUs, innovations for preemie care keep coming. But the newest tool is the simplest one yet: your voice.

That’s the latest from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Just a few hours a day of mom’s voice is a welcome contrast from the buzz of the incubator and other hospital noises. “Even three hours a day of exposure [to mom’s voice and heartbeat] was enough to give the brain a very good boost in terms of development and maturation in the auditory cortex,” says researcher Amir Lahav of the 40 preemies (born between 25 and 32 weeks) in the study.

To conduct the study, researchers played 21 of the preemies recordings of their mother’s heartbeats and voices for three hours a day, including recordings of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Good Night Moon.” The other 19 preemies heard only the NICU noises. Later examination found that babies who heard mom’s voice and heartbeat had larger auditory cortices — the part of the brain responsible for hearing and processing sounds — than the other babies.

“The auditory cortex of the brain in this [short] time period is more adaptive and responsive to maternal sounds than the hospital noises,” says Lahav. The takeaway? NICUs should incorporate more maternal and family involvement. More research is needed to see if larger auditory cortices are linked to improved language skills down the road.

via TODAY Parents

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