Our model of autism deals with under functioning areas of the brain as well as difficulty with different areas of the brain communicating with each other. Our treatment approach is based on eliminating issues with fuel delivery to the brain as well as activating the under functioning, under commmunicating pathways, and circuits in order to optimize brain function. This is our general approach to autism as well as many other neurological disorders. We know that the brain is changeable, neuroplasticity, and thus we use this information to stimulate targeted areas of the brain through the senses in order to promote positive changes in the patients nervous system. The stimulation should be targeted and specific to the patients particular area of weakness. I am not a fan of generalized right or left brain stimulation as you can create an imbalance as well as correct one. This is particularly important with regard to children on the autism spectrum as each child is so different even if they have some commonalities. Having established that I prefer specific treatment protocols based on a clinical examination by a functional neurologist, I recognize that I am often asked if there is any general type of stimulation or exercises that a parent that has a child with autism can do at home or by themselves that might be in accordance with the concepts of functional neurology, hemispheric integration and neuroplasticity. Something that I have found that seems to be beneficial in most,but not all cases, is musical training. Obviously, this would depend on where the lesion, problem in the brain, is and what you child’s level of function. Although, in Hemispheric Integration Therapy a great emphasis is placed on balancing the right and left sides of the brain. I again reiterate that there are 2 sets of peripheral nerves, 2 cerebellums, 2 basal ganglias etc and one can not simply stimulate on one side or the other and expect an optimum result. Much of the communication between right and left hemispheres is done through an area know as the corpus callosum which musical training has been shown to increase in size. In addition, musicians have shown larger brain areas for motor, auditory, and visual spatial center of the brain. And I think we have heard it said that musical training improves math skills. This is exactly what neuroplasticity is all about and a good example as to how appropriate stimulation cannot only make a pathway or area more efficient but also make it physically larger. This is exactly what the functional neurologist does with his patient’ s except that the exercises and stimulation are directed toward the area which was found to be deficient on functional neurological examination. Both of my children play the piano. I would say that in general, if you have a child on the autism spectrum, musical training is something you may want to investigate as a way to improve his or her functionality. This is not medical advice as I have not had the opportunity to examine your son or daughter, but simply a suggestion in response to a question that I am often asked. I personally don’t play an instrument, but have it on my list of things to do simply as I like the neurological implications.
J Neurosci. 2003 Oct 8;23(27):9240-5.
Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians.
Gaser C, Schlaug G.
Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.
From an early age, musicians learn complex motor and auditory skills (e.g., the translation of visually perceived musical symbols into motor commands with simultaneous auditory monitoring of output), which they practice extensively from childhood throughout their entire careers. Using a voxel-by-voxel morphometric technique, we found gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when comparing professional musicians (keyboard players) with a matched group of amateur musicians and non-musicians. Although some of these multiregional differences could be attributable to innate predisposition, we believe they may represent structural adaptations in response to long-term skill acquisition and the repetitive rehearsal of those skills. This hypothesis is supported by the strong association we found between structural differences, musician status, and practice intensity, as well as the wealth of supporting animal data showing structural changes in response to long-term motor training. However, only future experiments can determine the relative contribution of predisposition and practice.
PMID: 14534258 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Cereb Cortex. 2003 Sep;13(9):943-9.
Cerebellar volume of musicians.
Hutchinson S, Lee LH, Gaab N, Schlaug G.
Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
There is evidence that the cerebellum is involved in motor learning and cognitive function in humans. Animal experiments have found structural changes in the cerebellum in response to long-term motor skill activity. We investigated whether professional keyboard players, who learn specialized motor skills early in life and practice them intensely throughout life, have larger cerebellar volumes than matched non-musicians by analyzing high-resolution T(1)-weighted MR images from a large prospectively acquired database (n = 120). Significantly greater absolute (P = 0.018) and relative (P = 0.006) cerebellar volume but not total brain volume was found in male musicians compared to male non-musicians. Lifelong intensity of practice correlated with relative cerebellar volume in the male musician group (r = 0.595, P = 0.001). In the female group, there was no significant difference noted in volume measurements between musicians and non-musicians. The significant main effect for gender on relative cerebellar volume (F = 10.41, P < 0.01), with females having a larger relative cerebellar volume, may mask the effect of musicianship in the female group. We propose that the significantly greater cerebellar volume in male musicians and the positive correlation between relative cerebellar volume and lifelong intensity of practice represents structural adaptation to long-term motor and cognitive functional demands in the human cerebellum.
PMID: 12902393 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]Free Article
Clin Med. 2008 Jun;8(3):304-8.
Do musicians have different brains?
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London. firstname.lastname@example.org
The search for anatomical correlates of special skills dates from the end of the 19th century, when post-mortem brains of gifted individuals, including musicians, were examined for clues as to origins of their prized abilities. Modern neuroimagingtechniques provide the chance to interrogate the brains of living musicians. Structural and functional specialisations have been demonstrated across several sensory, motor and higher order association areas. These specialisations are often instrument- or effector-specific and correlate with aspects of the training history supporting the view that they are the result, rather than the cause, of skill acquisition. Musicians constitute a model, par excellence, for studying the role of experience in sculpting brain processes. A key challenge for the future will be to develop theoretical frameworks within which musicians and other occupationally specialised groups can be studied in order to investigate the nature, scope and limits of neuroplasticity.
PMID: 18624043 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE
Neuropsychologia. 1995 Aug;33(8):1047-55.
Increased corpus callosum size in musicians.
Schlaug G, Jäncke L, Huang Y, Staiger JF, Steinmetz H.
Department of Neurology, Heinrich-Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Using in-vivo magnetic resonance morphometry it was investigated whether the midsagittal area of the corpus callosum (CC) would differ between 30 professional musicians and 30 age-, sex- and handedness-matched controls. Our analyses revealed that the anterior half of the CC was significantly larger in musicians. This difference was due to the larger anterior CC in the subgroup of musicians who had begun musical training before the age of 7. Since anatomic studies have provided evidence for a positive correlation between midsagittal callosal size and the number of fibers crossing through the CC, these data indicate a difference in interhemispheric communication and possibly in hemispheric (a)symmetry of sensorimotor areas. Our results are also compatible withplastic changes of components of the CC during a maturation period within the first decade of human life, similar to those observed in animal studies.
PMID: 8524453 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Nat Rev Neurosci. 2002 Jun;3(6):473-8.
The musician’s brain as a model of neuroplasticity.
Münte TF, Altenmüller E, Jäncke L.
Department of Neuropsychology, Otto-von-Guericke University, Universitätsplatz 2, Gebäude 24, 39106 Magdeburg, Germany. email@example.com
Studies of experience-driven neuroplasticity at the behavioural, ensemble, cellular and molecular levels have shown that the structure and significance of the eliciting stimulus can determine the neural changes that result. Studying such effects in humans is difficult, but professional musicians represent an ideal model in which to investigate plastic changes in the human brain. There are two advantages to studying plasticity in musicians: the complexity of the eliciting stimulus music and the extent of their exposure to this stimulus. Here, we focus on the functional and anatomical differences that have been detected in musicians by modern neuroimaging methods.
PMID: 12042882 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]