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Sing a song of sixpence
Every so often the subject of music, and babies' responses to it, surfaces in respectable journals. Hyperion suspects that these papers are read with a mixture of genuine interest, and faint embarrassment, but the issue does not go away, perhaps because we humans have a long evolutionary relationship with music: it reaches the parts that other arts cannot reach. And most studies show positive effects of one sort or another, surely because the negative ones don't get published. The most recent offering in this genre is a study of the effects of maternal singing, performed by mothers with their babies undergoing kangaroo care (Acta Paediatr 2014 doi: 10.1111/apa.12744). The authors focused not on the gross physiological parameters that we are all used to, which showed no improvements, but on heart rate variability, a well validated measure of autonomic stability, which did improve. There was a beneficial anxiolytic effect on the mothers too. The authors commend the combination of kangaroo care and maternal singing and it is hard not to agree with them.
Can we trust NIRS?
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