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Live Music Boosts Babies’ Brain Connections, Study Shows

Babies synchronize heartbeats and benefit from social aspects of live performances, according to University of Toronto study.

Getting a kick out of watching live music is hard-wired into human nature, a new study reveals.

With festivals and gigs more popular than ever, researchers have shown that babies enjoy a live performance more than watching a recording.

And they say the same holds true for adults, with the key being sharing the experience.

Babies watching a baby opera even synchronized heartbeats as they enjoyed the show and the study authors believe a live show gives a powerful boost to early brain connections.

Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough found that babies benefited from the social aspects of live music as well as interaction with the performers.

Study author and assistant professor in the department of psychology Laura Cirelli said: “Their heart rates were speeding up and slowing down in a similar fashion to other babies watching the show.

“Those babies were dealing with all these distractions in the concert hall but still had these uninterrupted bursts of attention.

“There were moments during the performance when a calm would sweep over the babies and other times when a change in pitch or vocal riff would excite them all.”

With festivals and gigs more popular than ever, researchers have shown that babies enjoy a live performance more than watching a recording. PHOTO BY TJIS VAN LEUR/UNSPLASH

And she says the research, published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Art, gives insights into why humans are hardwired to consume music and attend live shows in the first place.

She added: “If there’s something happening that we collectively are engaging with, we’re also connecting with each other. It speaks to the shared experience.

“The implication is that this is not necessarily specific to this one performance. If there’s these moments that capture us, then we are being captured together.”

She said music can play a powerful part in making important bonds and previous research shows that youngsters are more likely to socialize with someone after hearing them sing a familiar song or dancing to music with them.

She added: “We consistently find that music can be a highly social and emotional context within which infants can foster connections to their caregivers, other family members and even new acquaintances.

“This audience study shows that even in a community context, infants are engaging with the music and connecting to their fellow audience members.”

Researchers examined 120 babies ages six to 14 months as they watched a children’s opera performed at a concert hall that doubles as a research facility at McMaster University, with 61 babies watching in person and the other 59 watching a recorded version.

The babies’ responses were tracked through heart monitors and tablets mounted on the backs of concert seats, and then afterward student research assistants combed through the footage to note when babies were looking at the stage versus when they looked away.

On the recording, the performers were at the same size, distance and volume as the live version.

The live performance captured their attention for 72 percent of the 12-minute show while the recording held their attention for 54 percent.

The live show also had them continually watching for longer bouts of time.

Cirelli said: “Even little babies who may or may not have experienced music in a community context before are already engaging more when it’s delivered this way.

“That’s one question we have as music cognition researchers: What is it about the live experience that’s worth it?

“Why would people go if there’s not something fundamental about that live music experience that’s above and beyond listening to music by yourself?

“If a baby is frequently brought to these kinds of events, will that shape their foundation for engaging in music and the community later in childhood?

“It speaks to why we even engage with music at all.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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