Thursday, April 22, 2010

Music, Movement & Autism

This short article is on some very preliminary work combining music and movement to help autistic children who are non-verbal to learn to speak.

The theory behind the therapy is that the combination of sound and movement can activate a network of brain regions that overlap with brain areas thought to be abnormal in children with autism. Researchers think the intensive, repetitive training on sound paired with motion will help strengthen those abnormal areas.


  1. This rather contradicts the Karl Popper quote from your previous article. According to Popper, learning such things is "doomed to failure" and yet here were are with a practical application of data gained from exactly those brain scanners he derided :-)

    Clouds are harder than clocks to figure out, but the attempt is not by definition doomed to failure.

  2. Jonathan - Great point. I think, though, the point of the Wired article is that there's a tendency to see part of an answer as the whole answer, which can send us off in wrong directions. The Popper quote seems to overstate the point of the article.

    Also, though, on the metaphysical level, not sure I agree with your faith that the human mind is capable of 100% comprehension of the universe. I certainly don't think it's going to happen in my lifetime, anyway. So my idea is to use both the clock and cloud approaches as checks on each other.

    Just getting caught up on blogs and blogging after a month of distractions. Just saw your comment over on Jeffrey's blog. If I can't figure out why that 1st valve Bb G is flat on my own (it's my toughest pitch), may ask for your help to see the numbers on the face of the clock.

  3. I think the point is that through science we do not determine truth, we seek to increase our understanding. Our understanding is imperfect at present, and will probably always remain so since we cannot know everything everywhere, but it is progressively improving, and we do not know where the ultimate limits of our knowledge lie.

    About tuning, the 1st valve G on the Bb side is flat because the open A on the Bb side is a harmonic which is flat relative to equal temperament. Therefore, in many (perhaps most) keys, notes which rely on that harmonic (modified or not by added valves) will seem flat. G and F# rely on that harmonic. A and Ab as normally played on the Bb side are not flat, as they are played 12 or 23 respectively, and so are based on the next harmonic up.

    There are two approaches to getting these notes in tune. One is to open your hand and/or lip up a bit when playing these two notes on the Bb side. The other is to play the notes 0 and 2 respectively on the F side. Do whichever is easier in individual circumstances.

    For fast passages, I don't bother - the notes slip past too quickly for anybody to notice a problem. At other times, I use the F side more often, but I make sure I have both techniques available so I can use whichever is more convenient on any specific occasion.

  4. Jonathan - That first paragraph is just great. Really helps me understand your skeptical take on things, and I agree with you. I think the divergence in our points of view stems from my wanting to be more open to ways of knowing other than just science, realizing they may not be as verifiable, but hoping they might give a fuller view.

    Thanks for the harmonic help here and above. I figured the issue was related to the harmonic that's the third of the chord, but needed a horn in my hands to think it through. Your clear and easy grasp of horn workings continues to be a wonder to me.

  5. Hi Lyle

    Science is just an open mind allied to skepticism concerning how we can tell that we really know what we think we know.

    So a scientist pursues all sorts of wild conjectures which might or might not turn out to be true. The difference between a scientist and you or me having these kinds of conjectures is that the scientist then goes on to think about how he could tell whether or not his conjecture is true, how he could test it and turn the conjecture into something in which we can have a bit more confidence.

    The effect of this style of thinking is that a scientist, unlike most people, considers that the phrase "I don't know" is one of the most honorable things a person can say.

  6. Jonathan - Well said, and I agree with it all. Having started being a music therapist back before they could even do brain scans, my notion was that maybe as a pioneer I could clear some brush as to what works, which might help the scientists frame the studies as the technology matures.