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Creative Music Therapy for Premature Infants

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT02434224
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : May 5, 2015
Last Update Posted : February 5, 2019
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
University of Zurich

Brief Summary:
This study investigates whether creative music therapy applied to premature infants will facilitate brain growth and development at term equivalent assessed by magnetic resonance imaging. Secondary objective are improvement of neurobehavioral outcomes of premature infants at 24 months, as well as at 5 years of age.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Developmental Delay (Disorder) Procedure: Music Therapy Not Applicable

Detailed Description:

Premature infants are a highly prevalent and vulnerable group in paediatric care, and face several short- and long-term challenges. Research on brain development in premature infants demonstrates a high incidence of white and grey matter abnormalities and neurobehavioral delay, as well as an increased risk of brain injury. There is growing awareness that premature infants need individualized nurturing interactions with their caregivers while they are in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to support healthy development and prevent future difficulties. One particular intervention that may have considerable potential in the NICU is creative music therapy (CMT), an individualized, interactive, resource- and needs-oriented music therapy approach. Results demonstrate that CMT can facilitate relaxation and stabilization in premature infants; by experiencing inter-subjectivity through music, the infants can be empowered to engage in meaningful and nurturing interactions (Haslbeck, 2013 a,b) .

Several researchers (Als, 2012; Trevarthen, 2008; Schore, 2003) have described how interactive and multi-sensory experiences of the fetus particularly facilitate brain development and learning about socio-emotional figures, respectively, in prematurely born infants. It is assumed that positive auditory experiences can promote premature infants' early brain maturation and contribute to their healthy neurodevelopment (Xu et al., 2009). Studies in music and neuroscience have demonstrated that music promotes neurobiological processes and modulates synaptic plasticity, neuronal learning and readjustment in the human brain (Rickard et al., 2005). The individualized approach in active music therapy may especially activate brain structures involved in emotional, sensorimotor and cognitive processing (Koelsch, 2009; Fachner et al., 2012).

Since, on one hand, individualized interactive experiences and, on the other hand, music may alter brain development in the fetus and very young infants, the question arises as to whether CMT might actually promote a premature infant's brain development by facilitating nurturing socio-emotional and auditory interactive experiences at the same time. Therefore a randomized, controlled, clinical trial will be conducted. 30 premature infants receive CMT during their hospitalization time and 30 premature infants without music therapy serves as control group. The primary objective is to explore if the experience of CMT in premature infants improves their brain growth and development at 38-42 weeks of corrected gestational age. The main secondary objective is to explore if CMT improves the neurobehavioral outcomes of premature infants at 9 and 24 months, as well as at 5 years of age. Magnetic resonance imaging is used to evaluate the infants' cerebral cortical development and myelination. Electroencephalography (EEG) is used to evaluate the infants' brain function and maturation. Insights into possible long-term and sustainable outcomes will be gained via neuro-developmental follow-up examinations. It is hypothesized that the experience of CMT in neonatal care improves both short- and long-term neurological outcomes. We expect that the experimental group will demonstrate superior brain growth and development at 38-42 weeks of corrected gestational age as well as improved cognitive, behavioral and motor developmental outcomes later on. This paper will introduce first insights and preliminary results of the ongoing study. Strategies and challenges inherent in conducting a controlled clinical trial within this vulnerable group will be discussed.

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 81 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single (Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Creative Music Therapy for Premature Infants: Testing a Possible Influence on Brain Structure, Function and Neurobehavioral Outcome
Actual Study Start Date : January 1, 2015
Actual Primary Completion Date : December 31, 2018
Actual Study Completion Date : December 31, 2018

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: music therapy
two to three sessions per week: The therapist will stay with one hand on the infants` chest (or back) in order to continuously assess the infants` breathing pattern. Based on and oriented towards the assessed breathing pattern, the infants` behavioral state, facial and gestural expression, the therapist transforms the infants` rhythms and subtle expressions into infant-directed improvised humming.
Procedure: Music Therapy
2 to 3 sessions per week of individualized creative music therapy

No Intervention: control
standard care

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Brain volume [ Time Frame: 40 gestational weeks ]
    3D magnetic resonance volumetric analysis: volumes of white matter (myelinated and unmyelinated) and grey matter volume will be evaluated

Secondary Outcome Measures :
  1. Mental Development Index (Bayley III) [ Time Frame: 24 months corrected for prematurity ]
    Bayley scales III (MDI)

  2. Intelligence Quotient [ Time Frame: 5 years ]
    Intelligence quotient (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised, WPPSI-R) to determine long-term development and intelligence. Children will be classified as either being normal or having minor or major impairment.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   up to 14 Days   (Child)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Born before 32 weeks of gestational age
  • Clinically stable
  • Chronological age ≥ 7 days of life
  • Informed written parental consent

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Born after 32 weeks of gestational age (due to a possible too short timeframe for music therapy treatment)
  • Lack of parental consent
  • Admitted a priori for palliative care
  • Genetically defined syndrome
  • Severe congenital malformation adversely affecting life expectancy or neurodevelopment
  • (For the control group only: Regular singing or other kinds of music stimulation by the parents during hospitalization time)

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT02434224

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University Hospital
Zurich, Switzerland, 8091
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Zurich
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Study Chair: Hans U Bucher, Prof. University of Zurich
Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
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Responsible Party: University of Zurich Identifier: NCT02434224    
Other Study ID Numbers: 2014-0655
First Posted: May 5, 2015    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: February 5, 2019
Last Verified: February 2019
Keywords provided by University of Zurich:
Music therapy
premature infant
brain development
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Premature Birth
Obstetric Labor, Premature
Obstetric Labor Complications
Pregnancy Complications