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      Same music, different emotions: assessing emotions and EEG correlates of music perception in children with ASD and typically developing peers

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          The purpose of this paper is to assess emotional response to music and its EEG correlates in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).


          Six musical fragments eliciting emotional states of calmness/serenity, sadness and anxiety/fear were presented to children with ASD ( n=21, aged 5–9) and typically developing (TD) peers ( n=21), while 19-channel EEG was recorded. Emotion self-reports were assessed using visual analogous scales.


          Children with ASD assessed most music fragments similarly to their TD peers, with likelihood of EEG oscillatory patterns closely corresponding to emotion self-reports. Somewhat contrary to the expectations, a major difference was observed for one fragment only, which was identified as sad by TD children and adult neurotypical raters, but found “angry and frightening” by children with ASD, with EEG oscillatory response confirming greater cortical activation, particularly for the right hemisphere.

          Research limitations/implications

          The data suggest that children with ASD may have emotional reactions to music either similar or highly aberrant compared to TD peers, rather than having general difficulties in assessing emotions. The data should be confirmed by further studies, ideally involving high functioning adult autists.

          Practical implications

          The findings may increase the understanding of autists’ difficulties in perceiving prosodic nuances and reading emotional cues. The results can be taken into consideration when developing music-based interventions.


          The findings show that music may be perceived by children with ASD in a unique way, which may be difficult to predict by neurotypical raters.

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          Most cited references 34

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          Approach to an irregular time series on the basis of the fractal theory

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            Music and emotion: perceptual determinants, immediacy, and isolation after brain damage.

             I Peretz (1998)
            This study grew out of the observation of a remarkable sparing of emotional responses to music in the context of severe deficits in music processing after brain damage in a non-musician. Six experiments were designed to explore the perceptual basis of emotional judgments in music. In each experiment, the same set of 32 excerpts taken from the classical repertoire and intended to convey a happy or sad tone were presented under various transformations and with different task demands. In Expts. 1 to 3, subjects were required to judge on a 10-point scale whether the excerpts were happy or sad. Altogether the results show that emotional judgments are (a) highly consistent across subjects and resistant to brain damage; (b) determined by musical structure (mode and tempo); and (c) immediate. Experiments 4 to 6 were designed to asses whether emotional and non-emotional judgments reflect the operations of a single perceptual analysis system. To this aim, we searched for evidence of dissociation in our brain-damaged patient, I.R., by using tasks that do not require emotional interpretation. These non-emotional tasks were a 'same-different' classification task (Expt. 4), error detection tasks (Expt. 5A,B) and a change monitoring task (Expt. 6). I.R. was impaired in these non-emotional tasks except when the change affected the mode and the tempo of the excerpt, in which case I.R. performed close to normal. The results are discussed in relation to the possibility that emotional and non-emotional judgments are the products of distinct pathways.
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              Frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) distinguishes valence and intensity of musical emotions


                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing Limited
                02 July 2018
                : 4
                : 3
                : 85-94
                Institut Vyssej Nervnoj Deatel’nosti i Nejrofiziologii RAN, Moscow, Russian Federation
                Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russian Federation
                Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of RAS and the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow, Russian Federation
                Author notes
                Galina Portnova can be contacted at:
                612477 AIA-01-2018-0001.pdf AIA-01-2018-0001
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 47, Pages: 10, Words: 4625
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata

                Health & Social care

                Emotion perception, Empathy, EEG, Music perception, Autism spectrum disorder, Autism


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