Music, Social Engagement, & Development Group (PI: Lense)

Current research areas in the Music, Social Engagement, & Development Group (directed by Dr. Lense)


Rhythm of social engagement; infant-directed speech and song

A major focus of our research group is social engagement and rhythm of social interactions, as seen in populations with and without developmental disabilities such as ASD. We use eye-tracking, acoustics, EEG, and movement coordination, as well as standardized assessments, to examine rhythmic entrainment and relationship with social communication skills. For many of these studies, we examine naturally-occurring rhythmic communication such as infant-directed song and speech. We are very interested in investigating the multimodal components of natural speech and song interactions and how these elements modulate infant and child behavior.


Music-based interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families

Our group develops and studies interventions, and their mechanisms of actions, for children with and without developmental disabilities and their families. Many of these projects focus on utilizing musical contexts to support social engagement and/or emotional well-being, as well as positive, responsive parenting skills. We created the Serenade Parent-Child Music Class Program, a novel parent-child music program that provides parent training and peer interaction through a supported music group. Other intervention activities include music learning in individuals with Williams syndrome and adapting mindfulness-based programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. These projects involve collaborations among researchers, therapists, clinicians, and families.


Mindfulness and music for caregivers of children with developmental disabilities

Many families of children with developmental disabilities experience high levels of stress, and recent research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may support family mental health and well-being. Our Mindful Songwriting program provides psychoeducation and experiential mindfulness practice to caregivers/parents through music listening and songwriting, supported by a board-certified music therapist. We examine the effects of Mindful Songwriting on qualitative and quantitative markers of caregivers' well-being, emotion regulation, and mental health outcomes.


Auditory processing in Williams syndrome

Williams syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder with a unique auditory profile. Our research in Williams syndrome has examined individual differences across different levels of auditory perception, production, and emotion. We also seek to understand how auditory sensitivities in Williams syndrome connect to other aspects of their cognitive, social, and emotional development.


Stress and Anxiety in Williams syndrome

Williams syndrome is associated with hypersociability and related social difficulties, as well as anxiety. We have studied cortisol, a biomarker of arousal, to examine stress and anxiety in people with Williams syndrome. Our research indicates flexible HPA-axis activity in Williams syndrome in response to social demands, with implications for stressfulness of social situations and intervention opportunities.