Music Therapy Autism Literature Review

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Individuals with autism show equal or increased abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music, and musical preference when compared to typically‐developing peers. The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in the areas of social‐emotional responsiveness and communication including increased compliance, reduced anxiety, increase speech output, decreased vocal stereotypy, receptive labeling, and increased interaction with peers. Preliminary findings also support the potential for music to assist in the learning of daily routines.

SECTION 1: AUTISM & MUSIC PERCEPTION RESEARCH

1. Bennett, E., & Heaton, P. (2012). Is talent in autism spectrum disorders associated with a specific cognitive and behavioural phenotype? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24(not yet in print). Parents of 125 youth and young adults with autism were surveyed. Special skills such as in music, art, and mathematics were associated with individuals who had superior working memory and highly focused attention that was not associated with increased obsessesionality.

2. Bonnel, A., Mottron, L., Peretz, I., Trudel, M., Gallun, E., & Bonnel, AM. (2003). Enhanced pitch sensitivity in individuals with autism: A signal detection analysis. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15(2), 226‐35. Pitch processing is enhanced in “high‐functioning” autism for discrimination and categorization compared to a control group.

3. Boso, M., Comelli, M., Vecchi, T., Barale, F., Politi, P. (2009). Exploring musical taste in severely autistic subjects: preliminary data. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169, 332‐5. Individuals with severe autism share the same musical preferences as typically developing individuals despite their challenges.

4. Brown, W.A., Cammuso, K., Sachs, H., Winklosky, B., Mullane, J., Bernier, R., Svenson, S., Arin, D., Rosen‐Sheidley, B., & Folstein, S.E. (2003). Autism‐related language, personality, and cognition in people with absolute pitch: Results of a preliminary study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(2), 163‐7. This study speculates that the genes that underlie absolute pitch may be among the genes that contribute to autism.

5. Caria, A., Venuti, P., & de Falco, S. (2011). Functional and dysfunctional brain circuits underlying emotional processing of music in autism spectrum disorders. Cerebral Cortex, 21(12), 2838‐49. Individuals with ASD and neurotypical controls underwent an fMRI study while processing happy and sad music excerpts. Individuals with ASD did show activated regions known to be involved in emotion processing and reward but showed decreased brain activity in specific areas compared to the control group.

6. Ceponiene, R., Lepisto, T., Shestakova, A., Vanhala, R., Alku, P., Naatanen, R., & Yaguchi, K. (2003). Speech‐sound‐selective auditory impairment in children with autism: They can perceive but do not attend. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,

RESEARCH OVERVIEW: MUSIC & AUTISM

100(9), 5567‐72. Sensory sound processing, including pitch discrimination, was largely intact in high‐functioning children with autism, regardless of the acoustic sound complexity.

7. De Bruyn, L., Moelants, D., & Leman, M. (2012). An embodied approach to testing musical empathy in participants with an autism spectrum disorder. Music and Medicine, 4(1), 28‐36. Results suggest that people with ASD have an understanding of the affective features of music although this physical understanding does not give them clear access to the emotional content of the music.

8. Emanuele, E., Boso, M., Cassola, F., Broglia, D., Bonoldi, I., Mancini. L., Marini, M., & Politi, P. (2010). Increased dopamine DRD4 receptor mRNA expression in lymphocytes of musicians and autistic individuals: bridging the music‐autism connection. Neuro Endocrinology Letters, 31(1), 122‐5. Results...
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