Sunday, October 11, 2009

In the News: Music Therapy and Preemies

Jury still out on music's benefits for preemies | Health | Reuters

A group of Canadian doctors at the University of Alberta recently took it upon themselves to do a review of recent research regarding music therapy and premature infants. The article in Reuters caught my eye because of its negative connotation toward using music therapy with preemies. My interest is further heightened because the head of the music therapy department at Florida State University is Dr. Jayne Standley, one of the leading researchers in the field about using music to benefit premature infants.

The doctors in Canada do not seem to have a problem with using music to aid premature babies, but they cite a lack of strong evidence to support some of the positive findings that have been published so far. They specifically said that there is some "preliminary" evidence that specially designed music intervention might be beneficial to these babies in certain circumstances. I think that the researchers were much more positive in their remarks and conclusions than the Reuter's author led us to believe by the headline, "The Jury is Still Out...".

The abstract for the research review in the Archives for Disease in Childhood can be found here. The Canadian doctors discovered that at least two research studies out of the nine they looked at were of good methodological design with large enough sample sizes to warrant merit. One of these studies was the research conducted by Dr. Standley here in Tallahassee using specially designed pacifiers that activate lullaby music for a defined period when a baby sucks. Dr. Standley found that the babies were significantly motivated to suck in order to activate the music and subsequently sucked better at feeding time after the pacifier intervention.

I think that the news article is probably an overall positive development for music therapy. There is obviously great public interest in music therapy and in using music to aid in health. The Canadian researchers seemed to advocate for more research with careful planning and better methodology. There is still much work to be done!

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