By Robert Schoon ( | First Posted: Apr 15, 2013 09:22 PM EDT

(Photo : Reuters)

It's been said that music cures the soul, but research is showing that it might actually help premature babies in a medically verifiable way. By helping decrease stress in infants, several important health benefits have been measured in a study of preterm newborns, according to the journal Pediatrics, published on Monday.

The study was conducted in 11 hospitals, with Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City at the head, according to an article in the New York Times on Monday. The music in the study was performed or sung live, and the results were amazing. Infants' heartbeat frequency were slowed, their breathing calmed down, and generally it helped them sleep as well. Additionally, sucking behaviors, which are vital for newborns' feeding habits, and states of quiet alertness were observed in reaction to music.

Such results are important with premature babies, as they need to devote as much energy towards healthy development as possible - energy that can often be sapped by stress and overactive pulse and respiration rates.

There is a growing research literature about how music can affect premature babies, and some hospitals are discovering that music works just as well as giving infants sedation before certain monitoring procedures, with the added benefit of being much safer.

The report, the culmination of a two-year study that was more organized and larger than any previous research on the health benefits of music or art, went as far as systematizing rhythm, melody, and timbre of the music in their testing.

"There's definitely a big buzz about music therapy," according to Dr. Lance A. Parton, who is the associate director of neonatal intensive care at Westchester Medical Center's Children's Hospital - one of the hospitals to take part in the study. "It used to be only academic ivory tower institutions. But with all the high-tech things we can do for babies, there are many low-tech things - and music therapy is part of that." 

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