Autism study tracks musical rhythm as possible treatment

VUMC Reporter

Researchers from the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center and the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine are partnering to study musical rhythm synchronization as a part of social development and how it’s disrupted in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in hopes of developing music interventions for improving social communication.

Dr. Gordon Receives NIH New Innovator Award

Dr. Gordon has received a highly competitive New Innovator award, part of the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, given to exceptionally creative scientists proposing to use highly innovative approaches to tackle major challenges in biomedical research. “I am honored and thrilled to be a New Innovator recipient, as this particular project really speaks to my professional mission to work across disciplinary boundaries to enhance our understanding of how and why musicality is related to brain development and human health,” Gordon said.

Biology and the Beat

Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

“We are looking at really broad factors of how we can use music and study music to impact social engagement, emotional well-being and community inclusion for individuals both with and without autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Lense, who is the principal investigator in the studies. “We are bringing together people with different areas of expertise to bring new perspectives to the field of music cognition.”

Country Music And Brain Research Come Together At Nashville Summer Camp

Emily Siner

Speaking to Emily Siner on NPR's All Things Considered, Dr. Miriam Lense discusses the intersection of neuroscience research and country music at Vanderbilt University's Williams syndrome camp for individuals with Williams syndrome. A clinical scientist with research and clinical expertise working with individuals with Williams syndrome and other neurodevelopment disorders, Dr. Lense aims to better understand the social, cognitive, and affective processes of these individuals through the approaches of auditory neuroscience/music cognition and stress biology.

A Musical Awakening

Alexander Chern, M.D. candidate

About a year ago, in a crosswalk at the corner of Natchez and Blakemore, I was hit by a car. I was hospitalized for a month after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other serious injuries. When I woke from my coma, the first thing I remember was asking my mother for my computer. I went on YouTube and listened to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral Symphony. 

Music Cognition as a Window into Development

Miriam Lense, PhD, Research Instructor, Department of Otolarygology

Twin A wailed as the nurse administered the heel stick. His heart rate jumped up nearly 70 beats per minute and he tightly squeezed his eyes shut. Nine weeks premature, he endured painful heel sticks and neurologic examinations as part of his daily routine. He was certainly not desensitized to the poking and prodding. When the nurse was finished, I turned on the speaker, letting lullabies softly play into the isolette. His heart rate declined to baseline and the music soothed him to sleep. 

The Rhythm of Research in the Music Cognition Lab

Genevieve Kupsky

The world of pre-meds at Vanderbilt is unforgiving, lonely and at times unrewarding. It is a community of students with the determination of steel and a “do it or die trying” attitude. “All I have to do is beat the curve” is the mantra of many as we prepare for battle against our peers in pursuit of the A’s that are only given to 10 percent of the class. Amidst this harsh and cutthroat environment, I have found an oasis that has reminded me of my love for science once again—the Music Cognition Lab.