Exploring Autism and Music, a chance to listen, learn and participate

Research into different aspects of autism can reveal many unexpected and interesting findings, which can sometimes help to improve the lives of young people in a practical way. Today we have an invitation for you to take part in a new study about music and language processing at Reading University.

It's aimed at investigating whether and how, enhanced musical processing in ASD can benefit language processing to help develop better therapy and intervention programmes. .

Additionally, the university department is holding a special event on Autism and Music, on Monday 26th June 2017 10.30am – 2pm, being held at the University of Reading.

Exploring Autism and Music

First, about the Autism & Music event

This free event aims to bring together families/individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with practitioners and researchers to celebrate the talent and explore fundamental research questions in autism and music. The programme features a lunchtime concert by Derek Paravicini, an extraordinarily talented pianist with ASD, a talk on music and language processing in ASD by lead researcher, Dr. Fang Liu, and a panel discussion with seven renowned researchers working on ASD at the Centre for Autism at the University of Reading,  where audience members can ask questions.

The event will take place in the Great Hall, at the University of Reading London Road campus. If you would like to attend, please click here to book your place on their website. Further details will be emailed to you once registered.

This event is funded by the University of Reading Endowment Fund and the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences. Please feel free to forward this invitation to anyone who might be interested.

Research on music and language processing at the University of Reading

The researchers are inviting individuals BOTH with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to participate in their research on music and language processing in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading.

Funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant (Principal Investigator: Dr Fang Liu, the research aims to investigate whether and how enhanced musical processing in ASD can benefit language processing. The findings will be helpful for developing effective intervention and rehabilitation programmes for the treatment of ASD.

They are looking for individuals who fit the following criteria to join our study:

  • Children or adults aged 7 to 65 years
  • Native speaker of English or Mandarin
  • No speech/hearing problems or neurological/psychiatric disorders
  • Either: have a diagnosis of high-functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger’s syndrome (AS)
  • Or: typically developing individuals

People who fulfil these criteria and are interested in participating in our research should register with us at https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/registration-form or contact us at [email protected]. Those who are selected for further testing in their lab will be compensated for their time at £7.50 per hour and their travel expenses will be reimbursed.

Each study will last about one to two hours, involving listening to or producing some speech or musical sounds, looking at or responding to some images, and/or performing some cognitive tasks.

If you would like more information, please contact Martina Micai on 0118 378 4547, or by email or visit their project website.

music and autismWhat does the study involve?

This study is designed to find out how people with and without autism spectrum disorders understand and produce speech and music differently. To take part, you and your child/dependent will need to visit our lab in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading. Each visit will take under 3 hours, and will include breaks and snacks. Your child/dependent will be asked to do one or more of the following tasks during their visit:

  • Make judgements about and respond rapidly to words or images they see and sounds they hear
  • Complete questionnaires about their feelings and experiences
  • Make judgements about social stories or social videos describing everyday events
  • Remember and recall sounds, items, or events
  • Produce speech sentences or sing familiar songs from memory
  • Repeat or imitate speech/song based on a model
  • Take part in a formal interview with a trained researcher

Please note that all these tasks use speech, music, or environmental sounds, or everyday items and situations, which are not emotionally stressful or scary. Your child/dependent will be undertaking these tasks in a quiet or soundproof room.

When performing some of the tasks, the eye movements and the brain activity of your child/dependent may also be recorded using a remote eye-tracking camera and electroencephalography (EEG), a simple, non-invasive, and routine procedure (pictures above). During an eye tracking experiment, your child/dependent will rest their chin comfortably on a head-support. During an EEG experiment, your child/dependent will be wearing a cap, with small electrodes temporarily attached to their scalp.

Please note that neither the eye tracking nor the EEG hurts, or causes any pain. Some parts of your child’s/dependent’s visit, such as those involving speaking, singing, and/or imitation of speech/song materials, will be recorded on audio. Some parts of your child’s/dependent’s visit, such as the interview, may be recorded on video if you agree to this.

What are the possible benefits of taking part in this research?

You and your child/dependent are not likely to have any direct benefit from being in this research study. In the long term this study may aid our understanding of how speech and music are processed and represented in the brain of individuals with and without autism spectrum disorders. This information may help develop effective treatment programs for individuals with musical or language disorders, or effective teaching programs in music learning or second language instructions. You and your child/dependent can learn more about these topics by participating and having the opportunity to ask questions. You can receive a copy of the final report once it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal should you wish. 

What are the possible risks of taking part in this research?

There are no or only minimal risks involved in our tasks, such as possible fatigue, discomfort or claustrophobia while in the soundproof room. To reduce your child’s/dependent’s discomfort, they can take as many breaks as necessary during the tasks. They can also choose to terminate the experiments at any point.

What will happen after the study?

We will put the results from all the volunteers together for publication. They will be published in reputable scientific journals. Data are typically published for groups (e.g., an average of 20 people) rather than individuals. You will be able to request your child’s/dependent’s scores on the tests they have completed. All data will remain entirely anonymous in the final research papers. 

Further information.

This study is part of the CAASD project, supported by the European Research Council through an ERC Starting Grant to Dr Fang Liu. All proposals for research using human participants are reviewed by an ethics committee before they can proceed. This application has been reviewed by the University Research Ethics Committee and has been given a favourable ethical opinion for conduct. All investigators on this project have had criminal records checks and have been approved by the School to work with children. If you have any comments or concerns about this study, you should discuss these with the project leader, Dr Fang Liu (E-mail: [email protected]; Tel: 0118 378 8122). For more information about the ASD research database in the Centre for Autism at the University of Reading, please see http://www.personal.reading.ac.uk/~gs901072/INFORMATION-adults_modified.html. If you want to speak with someone who is not directly involved in this research, or have questions about your child’s/dependent’s rights as a research participant, please contact the University Research Ethics Committee at the University of Reading (http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/res/ResearchEthics/reas-REethicshomepage.aspx).

Tania Tirraoro
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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome. Trustee, Genetic Alliance UK.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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