Music therapy research in the NICU: an updated meta-analysis

Neonatal Netw. Sep-Oct 2012;31(5):311-6. doi: 10.1891/0730-0832.31.5.311.


Purpose: To provide an overview of developmental and medical benefits of music therapy for preterm infants.

Design: Meta-analysis.

Sample: Empirical music studies with preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Main outcome: Evidence-based NICU music therapy (NICU -MT ) was highly beneficial with an overall large significant effect size (Cohen's d = 0.82). Effects because of music were consistently in a positive direction.

Results: Results of the current analysis replicated findings of a prior meta-analysis and included extended use of music.(1) Benefits were greatest for live music therapy (MT ) and for use early in the infant's NICU stay (birth weight <1,000 g, birth postmenstrual age <28 weeks). Results justify strong consideration for the inclusion of the following evidence-based NICU -MT protocols in best practice standards for NICU treatment of preterm infants: music listening for pacification, music reinforcement of sucking, and music pacification as the basis for multilayered, multimodal stimulation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Male
  • Music / psychology*
  • Music Therapy / methods*
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Object Attachment*
  • Tape Recording
  • United States