Music improves social communication and auditory–motor connectivity in children with autism - GreenMedInfo Summary
Music improves social communication and auditory-motor connectivity in children with autism.
Transl Psychiatry. 2018 Oct 23 ;8(1):231. Epub 2018 Oct 23. PMID: 30352997
Music has been identified as a strength in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder; however, there is currently no neuroscientific evidence supporting its benefits. Given its universal appeal, intrinsic reward value and ability to modify brain and behaviour, music may be a potential therapeutic aid in autism. Here we evaluated the neurobehavioural outcomes of a music intervention, compared to a non-music control intervention, on social communication and brain connectivity in school-age children (ISRCTN26821793). Fifty-one children aged 6-12 years with autism were randomized to receive 8-12 weeks of music (n = 26) or non-music intervention (n = 25). The music intervention involved use of improvisational approaches through song and rhythm to target social communication. The non-music control was a structurally matched behavioural intervention implemented in a non-musical context. Groups were assessed before and after intervention on social communication and resting-state functional connectivity of fronto-temporal brain networks. Communication scores were higher in the music group post-intervention (difference score = 4.84, P = .01). Associated post-intervention resting-state brainfunctional connectivity was greater in music vs. non-music groups between auditory and subcortical regions (z = 3.94, P < .0001) and auditory and fronto-motor regions (z = 3.16, P < .0001). Post-intervention brain connectivity was lower between auditory and visual regions in the music compared to the non-music groups, known to be over-connected in autism (z = 4.01, P < .00001). Post-intervention brain connectivity in the music group was related to communication improvement (z = 3.57, P < .0001). This study provides the first evidence that 8-12 weeks of individual music intervention can indeed improve social communication and functional brain connectivity, lending support to further investigations of neurobiologically motivated models of music interventions in autism.