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      Soundbeam imitation intervention: Training children with autism to imitate meaningless body gestures through music


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          This paper aims to present the application and critical reflection on the effects of a intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): the Soundbeam Imitation Intervention (SII). The intervention is based on the imitation of meaningless body gestures supported by a musical feedback. The rationale underlying SII is that mirror neurons deficit may represent the cause for the incomplete development of social and motor functioning in children with ASD. Following this assumption, it is possible to hypothesise that a systematic activation of this a system through the simultaneous observation-execution of meaningless body gestures may affect functional changes of mirror-related functions.


          A sample of 14 children, who were between 5 and 9 years of age, with a diagnosis of ASD were involved in a six weeks’ SII programme. The programme is designed as a three-step progression, where each step includes exercises that focus on an activity: synchronous/one arm imitation, synchronous/two arms imitation and delayed imitation. Exercises are based on repeated movements-melodies associations of increasing difficulty. Motor imitation and social attention were assessed using a synchronous video-modelling task pre and post intervention.


          Data highlight significant improvements in imitation accuracy and duration of social sustained attention were achieved.


          Data reported in this paper provide preliminary and promising evidence that imitation and social attention skills acquired through SII can be generalised to a video-modelling imitation setting. The SII ordinal execution has included meaningless gestures, usually excluded from previous interventions, and this adds further validity to the training.

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          Most cited references98

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          Nonparametric estimation of Shannon’s index of diversity when there are unseen species in sample

          Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 205-223
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            Standardizing ADOS scores for a measure of severity in autism spectrum disorders.

            The aim of this study is to standardize Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) scores within a large sample to approximate an autism severity metric. Using a dataset of 1,415 individuals aged 2-16 years with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or nonspectrum diagnoses, a subset of 1,807 assessments from 1,118 individuals with ASD were divided into narrow age and language cells. Within each cell, severity scores were based on percentiles of raw totals corresponding to each ADOS diagnostic classification. Calibrated severity scores had more uniform distributions across developmental groups and were less influenced by participant demographics than raw totals. This metric should be useful in comparing assessments across modules and time, and identifying trajectories of autism severity for clinical, genetic, and neurobiological research.
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              Listening to action-related sentences activates fronto-parietal motor circuits.

              Observing actions made by others activates the cortical circuits responsible for the planning and execution of those same actions. This observation-execution matching system (mirror-neuron system) is thought to play an important role in the understanding of actions made by others. In an fMRI experiment, we tested whether this system also becomes active during the processing of action-related sentences. Participants listened to sentences describing actions performed with the mouth, the hand, or the leg. Abstract sentences of comparable syntactic structure were used as control stimuli. The results showed that listening to action-related sentences activates a left fronto-parieto-temporal network that includes the pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus (Broca's area), those sectors of the premotor cortex where the actions described are motorically coded, as well as the inferior parietal lobule, the intraparietal sulcus, and the posterior middle temporal gyrus. These data provide the first direct evidence that listening to sentences that describe actions engages the visuomotor circuits which subserve action execution and observation.

                Author and article information

                Advances in Autism
                Emerald Publishing
                16 July 2020
                16 July 2020
                : 6
                : 3
                : 227-240
                [1]Department of Psychology, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore , Milano, Italy and IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, Bosisio Parini, Italy
                [2]Division of Education and Human Studies – Neuroscience lab, Champlain College , Burlington, Vermont, USA
                [3] Champlain College , Burlington, Vermont, USA
                [4]IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, Bosisio Parini, Italy
                [5]Department of Psychology, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore , Milano, Italy
                [6]IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, Bosisio Parini, Italy
                [7]Department of Psychology, Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore , Milano, Italy
                [8]IRCCS “Eugenio Medea”, Bosisio Parini, Italy
                Author notes
                Barbara Colombo can be contacted at: bcolombo@champlain.edu
                645030 AIA-07-2019-0023.pdf AIA-07-2019-0023
                © Emerald Publishing Limited
                : 04 July 2019
                : 25 February 2020
                : 30 March 2020
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 96, Pages: 1, Words: 7521
                Self URI (journal-page): http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/aia.htm
                research-article, Research paper
                cat-HSC, Health & social care
                cat-LID, Learning & intellectual disabilities
                Custom metadata
                Web-ready article package

                Health & Social care
                Mirror system,Motor skills,Autism spectrum disorder,Imitation,Music therapy,Social skills


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