Music & Social Engagement Group Research Areas (PI: 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 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.

Interventions for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families

Our group develops and studies interventions, and their mechanisms of actions, for children with developmental disabilities and their families. Many of these projects focus on utilizing musical contexts to support social engagement and/or emotional well-being. 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.

Auditory processing in Williams syndrome

Williams syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder with a unique auditory profile. Our research in Williams syndrome 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.