At a shower recently, a few veteran moms exchanged tales of "super smell" they'd experienced during pregnancy. (One reported having detected a pizza inside an unmarked car driving along her street – through her closed window and the delivery man's, plus exhaust from the car's tailpipe.) Sensitivity to smell is but one possible heroic power of pregnancy, it turns out. A new study by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany found that when listening to music, pregnant women showed stronger physiological responses than women who were not pregnant but still experiencing elevated estrogen levels due to an oral contraceptive cycle.
Fifteen women who were pregnant and 17 who were not took part in the study, listening and responding to different qualities of music and having their blood pressure measured. From a release:
[The researchers] played short musical sequences of 10 or 30 seconds’ duration to female volunteers. They changed the passages and played them backwards or incorporated dissonances. By doing so, they distorted the originally lively instrumental pieces and made listening to them less pleasant.
The pregnant women rated the pieces of music slightly differently, they perceived the pleasant music as more pleasant and the unpleasant as more unpleasant. The blood pressure response to music was much stronger in the pregnant group.
The authors noted, "Such an enhanced physiological response in pregnant women could potentially facilitate prenatal musical conditioning."
The study was published in the journal Psychophisiology.