Movement Origins

Dancing and singing to a beat require a degree of coordination that can take several years to develop. But at what point in infancy or early childhood do the precursors of music-induced movement and vocalizations appear? This week, we’re sharing a fascinating study that measured responses of three- to four-months-old infants to music. Check out the article here:

“An important question on the topic of the developmental origins of music is whether infants show precursors of dancing and singing to music. Evidence of such precursors may suggest that our brains prime our bodies to interact with music through limb movements and vocalizations.”

Previous research has shown that the brains of infants are capable of perceiving music. Infants also respond to adult speech with movements and vocalizations. The author of this study attempted to fill in some gaps in earlier studies regarding neonatal music interaction.

“[T]he nervous system of human infants is already primed with their bodies to interact with external auditory information as early as the first day of life.”

The study analyzed isolated limbic movements and vocal patterns of the three- and four-month-olds in response to two different songs (including a Backstreet Boys classic) versus without music. The study concludes that indicators of developing dancing and singing capability are actually discernible in very early childhood.

“The results suggest that our brains are already primed with our bodies to interact with music at three- to four-months of age via limb movements and vocalizations. …In line with the notion that these infant behaviors are the developmental precursors of unique human abilities such as higher order communication and/or socialization, our results may be interpreted as the precursors of dancing and singing.”

We decided to share this article because it reinforces the idea that early experiences with music cause important responses in developing brains. Singing and dancing are complex activities and the coordinated processes required begin to develop immediately after birth. Did you notice your little one respond to music with movements and sounds from an early age?


Fujii, Shinya; Watanabe, Hama; Oohashi, Hiroki; Hirashima, Masaya; Nozaki, Daichi; Taga, Gentaro. (May 16, 2014). Precursors of Dancing and Singing to Music in Three- to Four-Months-Old Infants