Battery improves behavior and brain function in autistic teens – Neuroscience News

Summary: Drumming for 90 minutes a week helps teens with ASD overcome hyperactivity and attention deficits. Learning drum rhythms also adjusts brain connectivity in areas associated with inhibitory control and self-regulation.

Source: University of Chichester

Drumming for just 90 minutes a week can improve the quality of life for young people with autism, a new study has found.

Scientists found that learning to play the instrument activated brain networks in adolescents with autism in as little as eight weeks.

The study was undertaken by experts from the Universities of Chichester, King’s College London, Hartpury and Essex working as part of their collective group, the Clem Burke Drumming Project, named after its co-founding member and famous musician Blondie.

Co-author Marcus Smith, Professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science at Chichester, said: “These results provide direct evidence that learning to drum leads to positive changes in brain function and behavior in children. autistic adolescents. We are now sharing our findings with education providers in UK special and mainstream schools who are responsible for the physical and mental development of vulnerable people.

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by poor social skills and interactions, and restricted and repetitive interests and activities.

As part of the study, a group of participants with no drumming experience received two 45-minute lessons each week over a two-month period. Each volunteer, aged 16 to 20, underwent a battery assessment and MRI before and after the procedure, while their guardians were interviewed by the researchers about recent behavioral difficulties.

The results showed that participants who improved their drumming skills showed fewer signs of hyperactivity, inattention, and repetitive behaviors and demonstrated better control of their emotions. MRI scans also revealed changes in their brain function that the study found were related to general behavior.

Professor Steve Draper, Academic Dean of Hartpury University and co-author of the report, said the paper represents a historic moment as the science team begins, through advanced imaging, to understand why the drum is such a profound stimulus.

He added: “Over the years we have been made aware of cases of drumming for the benefit of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, and have subsequently worked with a number of individuals, schools and projects. where we saw the effects firsthand. .”

The researchers at the head of the study published in PNAS found that after drum training, adolescents had improved synchronicity between brain regions responsible for inhibitory control, which prevents impulsivity.

Drumming for 90 minutes each week helps children with autism overcome difficulties with hyperactivity and attention deficit, according to a report. Image is in public domain

This, according to Reader in Exercise Psychology and co-author Dr Ruth Lowry from the University of Essex, highlights the central role of the prefrontal cortex in regulating motor impulsivity.

She added: “The article provides us with the first evidence of neurological adaptations of drum learning, particularly for adolescents with an ASD diagnosis. This study confirms the changes we measured and the observations of teachers and parents regarding the improvement in social skills, inhibitory control and attention.

The project, which was funded by the charity Waterloo Foundation, is the latest study from the Clem Burke Drumming Project, which for the past decade has investigated the impact of drums on brain development.

Renowned imagery scientist Professor Steven Williams of King’s College London, associated with the Clem Burke project, added: “The tambourine not only improves the ability to delay the onset of motor responses in autistic adolescents, but also reduces the hyperactivity and attention difficulties. Complementary functional imaging allowed us to visualize changes in brain circuits responsible for autoregulation and motor impulsivity.

Lead author Marie-Stephanie Cahart, a PhD student at King’s College London, said: “This study not only revealed improved behavioral outcomes in adolescents with autism after drumming training, but also shed light on changes associated in brain function. Increased synchronized activity has been observed between brain regions that support mental well-being and help navigate social relationships.

Scientists from the Clem Burke Drumming Project will speak about the study at a conference on Wednesday July 13, hosted at the University of Chichester, with free tickets available at

The team also intends to expand their drumming research and are looking to collaborate with schools or organizations working with people with ADHD, dyspraxia, dementia and traumatic brain injury, and can be reached on clemburkedrummingproject .org.

About this ASD research news

Author: James Haight
Source: University of Chichester
Contact: James Haigh – University of Chichester
Image: Image is in public domain

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Original research: Access closed.
“The Effect of Learning Drumming on Behavior and Brain Function in Autistic Adolescents” by Marcus Smith et al. PNAS


The effect of learning to drum on behavior and brain function in adolescents with autism

This current study aimed to investigate the impact of drum training on behavior and brain function in adolescents with autism without prior drumming experience.

Thirty-six autistic adolescents were recruited and randomly assigned to one of two groups. The drum group received individual drum lessons (two lessons per week over an 8-week period), while the control group did not.

All participants attended a testing session before and after the 8-week period. Each session included a battery assessment, an MRI, and a parent completing questionnaires relating to participants’ behavioral difficulties.

Results showed that improvements in drumming performance were associated with a significant reduction in hyperactivity and inattention difficulties in drummers compared to controls.

The fMRI results demonstrated increased functional connectivity in brain areas responsible for inhibitory control, action outcome monitoring, and self-regulation. In particular, seed-voxel analyzes revealed increased functional connectivity in the right inferior frontal gyrus and the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Multivariate model analysis demonstrated significant changes in the medial frontal cortex, left and right paracingulate cortex, subcallosum cortex, left frontal pole, caudate, and left nucleus accumbens. In conclusion, this study examines the impact of a drum-based intervention on neural and behavioral outcomes in adolescents with autism.

We hope these results will inform further research and trials on the potential use of drum-based interventions to benefit clinical populations with inhibition-related disorders and emotional and behavioral difficulties.

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