Study Finds Drumming Improves Brain Function of Autistic Adolescents

According to a new study, drumming improves behavior of autistic adolescents when practiced at least 90 minutes each week. As it also enhances their brain function, the said activity can greatly impact their overall quality of life.[1]Cahart, M. S., Amad, A., Draper, S. B., Lowry, R. G., Marino, L., Carey, C., Ginestet, C. E., Smith, M. S., & Williams, S. C. R. (2022). The effect of learning to drum on behavior and brain function in autistic adolescents. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(23), e2106244119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2106244119

A number of experts from different universities of Chichester, King’s College London, Hartpury, and Essex collaborated under the Clem Burke Drumming Project (CBDP). The project explores the physical and mental health benefits drumming can provide to an individual. In a recently published study, scientists have found that young people with autism who learned to play the instrument have more tuned brain networks in as little as two months.

Marcus Smith, co-author and professor of Applied Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Chichester, stated that their findings yield direct evidence of positive changes in brain function and behavior among autistic adolescents as a result of learning to drum. He also mentioned that they are now sharing the results of the study with schools in the United Kingdom that might need it to help improve the physical and mental development of those vulnerable.

Conducting the Study

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability due to differences in the brain. People with ASD often have poor social skills as well as restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. They are also noted to have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention.

To conduct the study, they gathered participants, aged between 16 and 20 years old, with no drumming experience, and gave them 45-minute lessons twice a week for two months. The participants did a drumming assessment as well as an MRI scan before and after the study. Additionally, the researchers interviewed the guardians regarding the participants’ recent behavioral difficulties.

In the results obtained, those who improved their drumming skills showed fewer signs of hyperactivity, inattention, and repetitive behaviors. Moreover, the participants demonstrated better control of their emotions. The MRI scans also revealed positive changes in their brain functions which are linked to improved behavior, according to experts.

Interpreting the Results

Prof Steve Draper, a co-author of the study and the Academic Dean at Hartpury University, stated that the results represent a landmark moment as to how drumming can significantly improve the life of an autistic adolescent as evidenced by advanced imaging.

He also added that they have been working with individuals, schools, and projects over the years to see first-hand the positive effects of drumming on individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.

The researchers have shown solid evidence of how the participants had improved synchronicity between brain regions responsible for inhibitory control which prevents impulsivity.

Dr. Ruth Lowry, another co-author from the University of Essex, said that the study demonstrated the first evidence of neurological adaptations for autistic adolescents following drum training.

Prof Steven Williams, a renowned imaging scientist from King’s College London and associate of the Clem Burke project, added that the complementary functional imaging from the study has allowed them to visualize changes in brain circuits responsible for self-regulation and motor impulsivity.

How drumming affects the brain has evidently shown positive results. Share this article with anyone who may find this information useful.


Written by Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at MyDailyBrain is a team of enthusiastic experts who have a passion for human cognitive and brain sciences. View all authors »

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