Study uses music to explore the autistic brain's emotion processing. UCLA Newsroom (2008, 5 July). Retrieved 18 November, 2008.
Individuals on the autistic disorder spectrum often have trouble with social interaction because they are unable to recognise the facial cues indicating other people's emotional state. Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a researcher at the UCLA Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity will research the link between processing emotional music and processing actual emotions to see if children with autistic spectrum disorder ("ASD") who are able to recognise and process the emotion in music can improve their ability to process emotional cues in social situations.
Using fMRI, Molnar-Szakacs will compare brain activity in normal functioning children with that of approximately 15 ASD children, while both groups identify emotions from faces and from musical excerpts. The study should give insight into how the brain of ASD children processes emotion, which will lead to better intervention practices. Also, the study will help "promote the use of music as a powerful tool for studying brain functions, from cognition to creativity."
My nephew has autism but is considered high functioning. He is unable to 'read faces', judge social situations and understand where he stands socially with other kids in the way that most people take for granted. But, as he is high functioning, he knows when other kids don't respond to him in an expected way, which is terribly demoralizing for him. This study is interesting on many levels in that it may help to provide some intervention practises to help ASD kids deal with the cause of one of the primary isolating factors for ASD kids, as well as increase the role of music in further research of the brain. I look forward to hearing the results!