Thursday, September 26, 2013

Music Entrainment for Infants

1. I watched a video on this subject through the PBS "Music Instinct" website. This video presents something called the Gato Box, and is presented by Dr. Joanne Loewy. Here is a link: 

2. Summary/Review:
As an individual who has little experience thinking in this field, I found this video very interesting. Even thinking about the idea of music as a tool for entrainment in the human body at any age and stage is quite intriguing. 

In this video, Dr. Loewy introduces us to a musical tool called the Gato Box, which is a small box-like instrument used percussively to mimic the sound of a heartbeat as a tool to entrain the baby's heart rate. Loewry, using her hands, softly beats to the beat that the baby's heart rate should be at in order to help it with the task at hand: sucking from a bottle of milk. This rhythm basis, as performed using the Gato Box, supports the baby's movement and speed of movement for sucking. This is paralleled to when a runner goes to run on a treadmill at the gym, and may use music at a certain tempo in order to help them continue running at a particular pace. 

The point of the Gato Box is to simply recreate the heart sounds, making it a natural sound for the infant to latch onto, therefore Dr. Loewy does not use a mallet, but her hand to keep the sound soft. The instrument itself is all hollow, so it creates a quiet and enclosed sound as to emulate what the baby would have heard in the womb.  Loewy also mentions how this tool helps transition the baby from an awake to a sleep state, guiding the heart rate with the rhythm created.

3. Reflections:

First of all, I found this video and article very interesting. In further reading about Dr. Loewy, it seems that she has done quite a bit of research in this field, and is currently the Director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine in New York City.

As I mentioned above, the idea of influencing physical movement with sound is so interesting to me, and to think that this can be used as such an effective tool with an individual at such a young age is truly amazing. I loved the parallel made about going to the gym, as that is something that I can identify with, and the use of rhythm in that case is quite an important tool in both keeping my focus, and my speed within the body. It was interesting to see not only how quickly the baby responded to this rhythmic pulse, but also how effective it was in serving several purposes: helping the baby do a necessary task (eating), transitioning, and finally moving into sleep.

I have a lot of friends who have babies, and it made me wonder if any of them have ever used a similar technique to help their own children eat, or sleep. As an adult, it made me think about times in my own day-to-day living where I find some kind of sound or rhythmic stimulus helpful in performing a task. For example, I tend to prefer to sleep with a fan on. I am not sure what it is about the frequency that the fan creates, or this "white noise" that aids me in sleeping, but I am definitely more interested to know why this is the case (which may or may not be completely related to this idea of entrainment).

Overall, it was an interesting video, and interesting to think about the many research possibilities in such an interesting field of Music and Science.

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