Does Playing Music Encourage Prenatal Learning?

Every prenatal child experiences the sonic environment of his or her mother: outside voices, traffic, television, radio, and CDs. The sounds generated by this outside stimuli pass through the abdominal wall, which lowers the volume by about 35 decibels and muffles the sounds. For the baby, it is much like listening to sounds underwater. Even though the baby is exposed to these sounds, they pass by him as white noise because they are too complex and the baby has no frame of reference for them as sounds.

Listening to music is a pleasurable experience, and certain types of classical music can have a calming effect on a pregnant mother. Since the prenatal baby can sense a mother's mood, the mother's emotional state can have a corresponding calming affect on the baby. However, music is not 'basic' enough to be the most effective prenatal curriculum. The most dominant sound heard by the baby is the mother's pulsing heartbeat at 95 decibels. This sounds to the baby as loud as a rock band concert would sound to you. This heartbeat occurs naturally at about 1 beat per second. The baby's heartbeat is approximately 2 beats per second. As the baby develops and hears these two sounds repeatedly, they become imprinted in the baby's cognitive architecture. They become the permanent foundation upon which all learning will be built.

The most effective prenatal education curriculum is one that utilizes the main element of the baby's frame of reference, namely, the heartbeat. Research has shown that introducing a heartbeat sound at a lower decibel level (like the simple rhythms of BabyPlus at 65 decibels) encourages the prenatal baby to begin to differentiate between the two sounds. The next progression is to slowly increase the rate of the sound used in the curriculum. Following this, the curriculum can introduce a slight tonal change. All changes in the prenatal curriculum must be very slight to give the prenatal baby the means of discriminating between these similar sounds. In this pattern of staged progression, the baby begins to learn. Such sounds must be very simple and repetitive, something which neither speech nor music can accomplish as effectively. That is why nursery rhymes, tunes, reading aloud, and classical music are simply too complex during this early stage of development.
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