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Title: Evaluating patterns of spared and enhanced processing within the music domain in autism spectrum disorders
Author: Ward, Jessica
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder characterized by deficits in communication and social functioning, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. Apart from these deficits, individuals with ASD demonstrate an uneven cognitive profile which includes sparing and enhancements. Research on musical savants, many of whom have ASD or autistic-like traits, as well as past research examining pitch and tonality in individuals with ASD has shown that music is likely to be at least spared in individuals with ASD. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that music is one of these cognitive strengths for individuals with ASD. The first study presented here addresses the question of timbre cognition, and demonstrates that individuals with ASD have enhanced discrimination of timbres relative to controls. The second and third studies address rhythm reproduction and cognition, showing an enhancement and a sparing, respectively, relative to controls once levels of motor dysfunction are controlled for. The fourth study replicates earlier findings about the ability of individuals with ASD to process tonality, and using a temporal manipulation demonstrates that individuals with autism are as good at processing tonality as their matched controls when the tempo is slow, medium and fast, although both groups show a decrease in accuracy at slower tempi. The fifth study examines implicit learning for both pseudo- linguistic stimuli and musical stimuli. In this experiment the control group was unable to succeed on the task, while the ASD group surprisingly succeeded both with pseudo-linguistic and musical stimuli. These results are discussed within the context of modern theories of cognition in ASD. The results of every experiment in this study encourage the conclusion that there is a pattern of spared and enhanced cognition for musical materials apparent in this sample of individuals with ASD. There were no deficits found on any task relative to a control sample. This is a burgeoning field with exciting prospects for future work into the abilities of those with ASD.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral