Repository logo

The impact of music therapy on sensory gating and attention abilities in children with autism spectrum disorder: a feasibility study




Berent, Rachel C., author
Davies, Patricia, advisor
Gavin, William, committee member
LaGasse, A. Blythe, committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by social communication deficits and repetitive behaviors, frequently accompanied by deficits in attentional abilities and atypical processing of sensory information. Sensory gating is an aspect of sensory processing in which redundant sensory information is filtered. These deficits may lead to impaired social and academic functioning. Music therapy has been used to address cognitive, sensory, and motor impairments with neurological causes. This feasibility study looked at whether children with ASD have significantly impaired neurological sensory gating and attentional abilities when compared to typically developing (TD) children. This study also aimed to explore whether music therapy is an effective intervention to address these deficits. Lastly, this study examined potential relationships between neural sensory gating and attentional abilities. Electroencephalography (EEG) and a paired-click paradigm was used to measure neural sensory gating at the P50 and N100 components. The Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch) was used to measure attention abilities across three domains: sustained, selective, and shift/control. A total score of all three sub-domains was calculated to determine overall attentional abilities. In this feasibility study, 7 children ages 5 to 12 participated in 5 weeks of biweekly music therapy delivered by a board-certified music therapist. An age and gender matched group of 7 TD children was used as a control to compare attention and sensory gating abilities to children with ASD at baseline. At baseline, children with ASD demonstrated significantly reduced N100 gating, selective attention, and overall attentional abilities compared to TD peers. Analysis revealed significantly improved selective attentional abilities in the experimental group after music therapy intervention. There were no significant differences in sensory gating at P50 or N100 component. The TD group demonstrated significant correlations between sustained and overall attention with N100 gating at baseline. At baseline, there were no significant correlations between neural sensory gating and attention abilities in the experimental group. After music therapy intervention, children with ASD demonstrated a significant correlation with sustained attention and P50 gating. Further research that utilizes a control group throughout the intervention, with larger sample sizes to attain greater statistical power, and a clearly defined intervention protocol is recommended. Post-hoc power analyses suggest that a sample size of at least n = 18 would ensure adequate statistical power to detect changes in neural sensory gating.


Rights Access



Associated Publications