In newborns, some basic music processing seems to be present few days after birth (1). Neonatal intensive care units are willing to use music to enrich preterm infant environment. Indeed, researches in neonatal intensive care units showed music impacts on physiological and behavioural responses, caloric intake, and energy expenditure of premature babies (2). The aim of this study is to understand how music is processed in newborns and if premature birth impacts on this processing.
Twenty-four healthy newborns (14 preterm scanned at term equivalent age and 10 full-term infants) have been recruited. Infants underwent functional MRI (fMRI) at 3T during natural sleep or while resting quietly in the scanner without any sedation. FMRI data were realigned; coregistered; normalised to a T2 neonatal template; and smoothed. Random-effect analyses have been done to observe the group activation on all newborns and to compare term and preterm newborns.
At the group level, we observed bilateral activation of auditory regions. At the cluster level, the right auditory cortex (p = 0.028, corrected for multiple comparison, extent = 70 voxels) was more activated than the left auditory cortex (p = 0.067, corrected for multiple comparison, extent = 52 voxels) during music. Furthermore, no difference was found between full-term and premature groups.
Our preliminary results show functional asymmetry in auditory cortex already present at 40weeks gestational age. Those results corroborate with those found in adults (3), in processing pitch changes in 3-to-6 month’s old children (4) and in full-term newborns (1). More analyses are needed to explore further music processing differences in these two populations.