Discriminating Autism Spectrum Disorder and Specific Language Impairment on Acuity of Musical Imagery

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
P. F. Heaton, Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, United Kingdom
Background: Deficits in auditory short-term memory have been linked with impairments in music perception in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), when co-morbid with language impairment (ALI), is also characterized by auditory short-term memory impairments, although music perception has yet to be systematically investigated in this group.

Objectives: The objective of this research is to investigate the relationship between music perception and auditory short-term memory in individuals with ASD and co-morbid language impairments.

Methods: Children and adolescents with SLI (n=14), ALI (n=14) and typically developing (TD) controls (n=14), matched for chronological age (M = 14.06, S.D = 0.97) and musical experience, completed tests of pitch and temporal acuity within Voluntary Musical Imagery and short-term auditory memory, using the digit span test.

Results: Results revealed significantly lower digit span scores in the SLI and ALI groups than in TD controls, although this was only associated with poor performance on the visual musical imagery task for the SLI group. The ALI participants performed as well as TD controls on the tempo conditions of the musical task and better than TD controls on the pitch condition. For both ALI and TD groups, performance on the musical imagery task was positively associated with levels of musical experience.

Conclusions: This research demonstrates that despite language impairments, individuals with ASD show strengths in music perception skills.