Pitch discrimination and melodic memory in children with autism spectrum disorderby Sandy Stanutz, m.aut.sagepub.com
November 13th 2012
Background: Pitch perception is enhanced among persons with autism. We extended this finding to memory for pitch and melody among school-aged children.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate pitch memory in musically untrained children with autism spectrum disorders, aged 7–13 years, and to compare it to that of age- and IQ-matched typically developing children.
Methods: The children were required to discriminate isolated tones in two differing contexts as well to remember melodies after a period of 1 week. The tasks were designed to employ both short- and long-term memory for music. For the pitch discrimination task, the children first had to indicate whether two isolated tones were the same or different when the second was the same or had been altered to be 25, 35, or 45 cents sharp or flat. Second, the children discriminated the tones within the context of melody. They were asked whether two melodies were the same or different when the leading tone of the second melody was the same or had been altered to be 25, 35, or 45 cents sharp or flat. Long-term memory for melody was also investigated, as the children attempted to recall four different two-bar melodies after 1 week.
Results: The children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrated elevated pitch discrimination ability in the single-tone and melodic context as well as superior long-term memory for melody. Pitch memory correlated positively with scores on measures of nonverbal fluid reasoning ability.
Conclusion: Superior short- and long-term pitch memory was found among children with autism spectrum disorders. The results indicate an aspect to cognitive functioning that may predict both enhanced nonverbal reasoning ability and atypical language development.
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