Saturday, 21 January 2012

How Music touches the Brain.

More evidence for the positive influence of music upon brain function. This is why Snowdrop now offers the 'listening programme' and why exposure to music is generally incorporated into our development programmes for children with cerebral palsy, autism, ADHD and other developmental disabilities.
With thanks from ScienceNordic.
Finnish researchers have developed a new method that makes it possible to study how the brain processes various aspects of music such as rhythm, tonality and timbre.
The study reveals how a variety of networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity, are activated when listening to music.
According to the researchers, the new method will increase our understanding of the complex dynamics of brain networks and the way music affects us.
Responding to Argentinian tango
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the research team, led by Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, recorded the brain responses of individuals who were listening to a piece of modern Argentinian tango.
"Our results show for the first time how different musical features activate emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain", says Professor Petri Toiviainen of the University of Jyväskylä, who was also involved in the study.
Using sophisticated computer algorithms developed specifically for this study, they then analysed the musical content of the tango, showing how its rhythmic, tonal and timbral components evolve over time.
According to Alluri, this is the first time such a study has been carried out using real music instead of artificially constructed music-like sound stimuli.
The whole brain reacts to music
Comparing the brain responses and the musical features led to an interesting new discovery: the researchers found that listening to music activates not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also employs large-scale neural networks.
For instance, they discovered that the processing of musical pulse activates motor areas in the brain, supporting the idea that music and movement are closely intertwined.
Limbic areas of the brain, known to be associated with emotions, were found to be involved in rhythm and tonality processing.

 And the processing of timbre was associated with activations in the so-called default mode network, which is assumed to be associated with mind-wandering and creativity.
"We believe that our method provides more reliable knowledge about music processing in the brain than the more conventional methods," says Toiviainen.
He adds that brain areas related to emotion and reward have in previous studies been found to be activated during intensely pleasurable moments of music listening. But this study, he says, is the first one to specify which particular musical features activate these areas.
The study was recently published in the journal NeuroImage.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Social Cues Could Hone Language Development in Children.

Vygotsky was saying that a child's language development was socially driven and this was back in the late 19th Century. He said that a child develops language as a social tool and model's ad refines it within the social interactions with his family and friends. This is why Snowdrop programmes contain activities which focus on modellig speech sounds, words, etc. Now we have even more evidence to support our views.
With thanks to the Montreal Gazette.
New light has been shed on the way children learn to speak — contradicting what researchers previously believed — that could lead to advances in how speech-related disabilities are treated.
Children around the age of two may learn to speak by using social cues and having a parent or other caregiver repeat words back to them, according to a new study by University of Denmark researcher Dr. Ewan MacDonald, along with researchers at the Universities of Toronto and Queen's.
Previously, it was thought that children listened to their own voices to figure out if they were speaking correctly. MacDonald said the results were surprising, but the exact learning method hasn't yet been pinpointed for children younger than two years old.
The experiment was conducted by first getting adults to say a word — in this case "bed" — which was then simultaneously altered and played over headphones to the subject to sound like they were actually saying "bad."
Adults, when they participated, took the feedback from the headphones to adjust their speech and would try again to say bed, but pronounce it closer to "bid" to compensate for the researchers' playback.
The surprising results came when toddlers participated and didn't adjust the way they spoke the word.
MacDonald said this suggests the children aren't using the feedback from their own voice to learn how to speak.
He said the results point to one of two possible conclusions: that children only sometimes listen to their voices — listening when they are practicing their speech and looking for social cues when they are performing — or they rely on social cues from a caretaker to get feedback on how their speech is progressing.
The second option — social cues — is what excites MacDonald.
"They may be using the feedback from the person that they are talking to," MacDonald said. "They may be looking at the person and the social interaction of the person that they are talking to and using that to judge the accuracy of their productions."
MacDonald said that when talking to a parent, positive responses, such as smiling, or repeating words with corrections to pronunciation could be how two-year-old children learn to speak.
"By looking at how the person is responding, they can use that to judge whether they are producing (the word) correctly," he said.
The researcher — who recently moved to the University of Denmark from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. — said the study findings are the first step to figuring out how people learn to speak.
He said this could lead to developing strategies to assist children with abnormal or delayed speech development.
MacDonald said it is too early in the research to give specific advice to parents with young kids, but the study's results do point a general way forward.
"I think the important message is to just communicate with the child," he said. "It's not just they must correct everything, it's more just everyday communication could actually be important."
Another upside to the results is the possibility that children learn how to speak in much the same way songbirds learn to sing. Studies have shown that some birds learn through similar social cues.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Listening Programme for ADHD.

As readers of this blog will know, Snowdrop, in conjunction with American neurotechnology company, Advanced Brain Technologies,' began to offer 'The Listening Programme' to its clients.  The reason we did this is because TLP has scientific evidence to support its use.  In particular, it was evidence provided by a study carried out by the University of Sheffield, - my own university which impressed me.

We now have half a dozen families whose children are using TLP in conjunction with their Snowdrop developmental programme and the initial results look very promising, with changes being observed in all children.  The changes being observed include a reduction in activity, increased attention, reduced auditory hypersensitivity, increased eye contact, increased quantity of and clearer language production, amongst many other small changes.
I would like to share an email which I received yesterday from a Dad whose little boy has very bad ADHD.  His ongoing Snowdrop programme has reduced his level of activity dramatically, but the supplementation of  TLP has also had beneficial effects upon this and in other areas, such as auditory hypersensitivity, concentration, etc.  I quote directly.

"I just wanted to catch up with you on how ---- has been getting on with the listening program.
So far his speech has improved as has his concentration. He will sing jingle bells and can almost now bear happy birthday. He will sit and do his numbers and alphabet for 5 minutes without any problems at all and he is also now willing to actually communicate without prompting. Sleeping has been no problem with 11-12 hours a night.  ---- is more willing to follow instructions and though will have a quick moan if you tell him it is the end of computer time he will still get off the computer. All that is good news."

Anyone who would like to know more about Snowdrop and TLP should go to the Snowdrop Website.