Can music make my baby smarter?

Ooh, that's a good track. But is it going to make your baby any smarter?
Ooh, that's a good track. But is it going to make your baby any smarter?

In 1998, Georgia Governor Zell Miller asked his legislators to pony up enough money to give a CD of classical music to every parent of a newborn across the state. Eventually, a company that produced classical music CDs specifically for infants offered up free CDs for the ambitious new parents.

The governor assured the state that listening to classical music while still in the crib would improve skills needed for math, engineering, "and even chess" [source: Issues2000].

To help make his pitch, Gov. Miller played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" for the assembled lawmakers, though it's uncertain whether doing so improved the intelligence of any who were present that day.

But what it did do was give more publicity to the so-called Mozart Effect. This term was thrust into the spotlight following a study that seemed to show improvement among college students who had listened to classical music (specifically, Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major") for 10 minutes before participating in a test that involved folding and cutting paper.

Other groups listened to a relaxation tape for meditation, or to nothing at all. The group listening to Mozart before the test scored on average 8 to 9 points higher than the other groups [source: Jenkins]. However, after 15 minutes the boost seemingly gained from the classical music faded away. When this study was published in Nature, subsequent talk about the study quickly began to equate proximity to classical music with general improvements in IQ.

What brought the matter to Zell Miller's attention was a book, "The Mozart Effect," written by Don Campbell and various CDs and cassettes that began to flood the market with titles like "Baroque for Babies."

It was a great business idea. With the science seemingly supporting it, and plenty of built-in publicity, the only other component needed was a consumer who would feel guilty if the product wasn't purchased. Check.

But can music really make your baby smarter? Keep reading to find out.