Music Therapy for Autism Is a Promising Treatment, Shows a Controlled Study


Feb 15 2017 - 3:30pm
Music Therapy research, a new hope for people on the spectrum.

According to a controlled study, from the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Seoul, Music Therapy offers compelling improvements in the cognitive skills of people on the Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD).

It was observed that there were significant results with an increased eye contact and turn –taking amongst the children participating of the improvisational music therapy sessions.

The participants had no experience in Music Therapy for autism, and of the thirteen children who started the program ten boys remained until the end. “Each participant had 12 weekly 30 min improvisational music therapy sessions, which were compared with a control condition of 12 weekly 30 min play sessions with toys.”

Music therapy techniques are as follows:

• Free improvisation (i.e., without any stated boundaries for the music);
• Structured improvisation (i.e., some established parameters for the music);
• Performing or recreating pre-composed music, songs, and associated activities;
• Composing songs and instrumental music, and/or (e) engaging in listening experiences

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder .The American Psychiatric Association defines ASD as a condition in which a person has been tested and found to have mild to severe deficits in social communication, social interaction, restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities.

The science behind Music Therapy is that music is sound, and sound is vibration. So, vibratory stimulus has cognitive and memory dimensions. A study published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, explains that the effectiveness of music therapy comes from its ability to function through sub-cortical, non-cognitive pathways that are indigenous to fundamental physiological response mechanisms. This offer great hope for people with Autism that may need to improve their eye contact, and overall visual processing of the world around them..

In another study, the results were astounding. As the underlying neural mechanisms using electric neuroimaging (EEG) were observed, It was found that acoustic noise alters occipital alpha waves, which originate from the occipital lobe and are responsible to organize and integrate visual information. The scientists also discovered there was a decreased frequency range of human brain activity, also know as “Beta- band.”

Therefore, task-irrelevant and continuous sounds have an effect on cortical mechanisms implicated in shaping visual cortical excitability. The same oscillatory mechanisms also mediate visual facilitation by transient sounds. These findings suggest that task-related sounds and task-irrelevant background noises could enhance visual perception.

There is a limited amount of mainstream therapies that are used to manage Autism traits. They are usually a combination of speech therapy and occupational therapy. So, the recent developments on the effects of Music therapy on cognitive learning and behavior gives people another way to treat ASD traits and improve their quality of life.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author

James, R., Sigafoos, J., Green, V.A. et al. Rev J Autism Dev Disord (2015) 2: 39. doi:10.1007/s40489-014-0035-4
Kim, J., Wigram, T., & Gold, C. (2008). The effects of improvisational music therapy on joint attention behaviors in autistic children: a randomized controlled study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1758–1766. doi:10.1007/s10803-008-0566-6

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Journal of Scienti c Exploration, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 687–703, 2003 http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.584.6657&rep=rep1&type=pdf

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music.aspx

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, volume 26, Issue 4, april 2014, pages 699-711

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