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Get "High" by playing/performing music, and get healthy too! Part 2


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At around 18 weeks of pregnancy,  an unborn baby will start being able to hear sounds in it's mother's body like her heartbeat. At 27 to 29 weeks (6 to 7 months), they can hear some sounds outside your body too, like voices. However, the input they are exposed to is limited to low-frequency sounds because of the muffling effect of the amniotic fluid and surrounding tissues. (There are some interesting studies from MIT about how this exposure to low freq. sounds relate to brain development:  https://news.mit.edu/2022/prenatal-sound-womb-auditory-system-0525 ) . Per NIH, "Music increases the unborn child's intelligence, sound stimulation enhances the brain's maturation, the Mozart effect boosts creativity and cognitive skills, and in utero listening to lullabies improves postnatal sleeping habits. Results show that prenatal exposure to music can have long-term plastic effects on the developing brain and enhance neural responsiveness to the sounds used in the prenatal training. Furthermore, we found that these plastic changes are long lasting, as the effect of prenatal exposure persists for at least four months without any additional stimulation. " (the term, "plastic effects" means functional changes due to brain damage or structural changes due to learning. Plasticity refers to the brain's malleability or ability to change; it does not imply that the brain is plastic.) This study details how music effects fetal neurology   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3813619/   .

In early 2005, my wife and I learned she was pregnant. Due to health issues, she was put on "bed rest" for the remainder of the pregnancy. Being the type of guy I am, I saw this as an opportunity to employ a few of the fetal "brain developing" processes I had heard about in school. (It helped that my wife couldn't get up and run away from my "experiments", lol). In my 20's, I made a promise to myself that if I was ever lucky enough to get married and have a child with her, that I would do everything possible to give her/him a "leg up" intellectually.  I understood the power of music, and wanted to use it as a brain building tool for my kid. 

I began my in-utero music exposure/"brain building" with my growing daughter at 16 weeks, (not 18 weeks). I was aware of the data claiming that even at 18 weeks, fetus' only hear sounds generated inside the mother, (heart beats, respiratory and gastrointestinal processes, etc..). I also was aware of the 27-29 week fetal hearing threshold concerning external sound sources and the "muffled" effect (low freq. transmission) due to amniotic fluid.  Except for the issues relating to sound transmission through fluids, I called "BS" on the "experts" fetal auditory timelines. (I'm glad I did.)  I wired a pair of Boston Acoustic A40's to the "B" channel of my Pioneer VSX-D810S amplifier. I used my Denon DCD-1520 compact disc player, as my source, routed through my Yamaha EQ-70  (10 one octave bands per channel) equalizer. On day one of this process, I placed the speakers, (grills on), on either side of my wife's growing abdomen, as she laid on her back in bed. (I had her hold the speakers at around one inch from her bare midriff.) I had the amp and the EQ set flat, with the amps volume at just above normal conversation level, and did my best to eliminate other noise sources. I chose "Let's call the whole thing off" with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong for the first song my daughter would "hear". I wanted to provide some type of societal human context with a deep and strong male voice and a perfect pitched, higher register female voice, each emanating from opposite stereo channels, (each side of mommy's tummy), in a "conversational" melodic presentation. I had only planned to play one song the first day. My kid was pretty active at 16 weeks, and my wife knew that if our kid didn't like what she heard, (if it distressed her), she would defiantly let her mom know. (Remember, at 16 weeks, all the experts say a fetus' shouldn't even hear music, or even hear at all.)  The second the first note played, my ex wife noticed that our kid became still and "relaxed".  (Mothers understand how it feels when a growing baby becomes relaxed. Apparently it involves no longer having a foot pressing on Mommy's bladder.)   For the next 2 minutes and 20 seconds, our kid was motionless, which was atypical for that time of day. Then came the really weird part. A few seconds after the song ended, our kid went nuts, kicking up a storm, to the point my ex told me to quickly play something else before our kid pulled an Alien and clawed her way out. In my haste to get something playing, I pressed play on the tape deck, and switched the amp input, not knowing what was in the deck. The next 11 words we all heard will live in infamy with our family; Step inside, walk this way, you and me babe, hey hey.  My ex and I knew exactly what was coming next, since we both are rockers, and we both cringed a bit as our fetus daughter got an ear full of an awesome lead guitar line.  But as I reached to stop the deck and turn down the amp simultaneously, my ex motioned for me to stop. Like before, our kid had became calm. Her spastic fit, after the first song ended, was actually a request for more music.  I may be the only DJ to ever respond to a request from a fetus. And, my unborn kid learned how to "kill" a song as well. If she didn't like something, she would kick the crap out of my ex until a new song was played. God, did she hate Sting, Seal, or anything "pretty". Give her Detroit Rock City, Ozzy, or anything with distorted guitar, screaming vocals, and a driving 4 4 drum beat, and she would chill like Marley with a blunt and some Reggae. (she hated Reggae, btw).  And, to our surprise, she liked her metal just like KISS sang; "Loud,  I want to hear it loud, right between the eyes. I love it". 

My ex and I continued this daily music exposure for her until the day she was born. I did my best to slip in different types of music into her mix. Some she hated, some she was ok with, but driving rock always soothed her. I experimented with the eq,, pushing the high frequencies, bringing down the low freqs., and then pushing the amplitude in an attempt to allow her to hear the songs without as much fluid distortion. Who knows if it worked. What I do know is that my daughter was easily able to focus well beyond three feet the second she was born, and was able to shift that focus to objects in her field of vision like you and can. (Newborns, if their eyes are even open, typically are only able to focus on objects three feet or closer to them, and have difficulty quickly shifting that focus onto other objects within that three foot radius. Within an hour of her birth, when being examined by her doctor, my daughter rolled twice from her back to her tummy. Newborns don't do that, let alone twice within seconds in front of her doctor. Also, she effortlessly used her stereoscopic hearing to help her visually locate the source of a sounds, nearby and/or at a distance, (familiar or unfamiliar).  This skill is not something 1 day olds exhibit.   

Did playing her music in the womb enhance her intelligence? Did it help her maintain straight A's throughout her K-12 schooling? Did it help her get accepted into Bama's honors Aerospace Engineering program? All I can say is that it didn't hurt. Never underestimate the power of music.

 

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