Autism, music, and the therapeutic potential of music in alexithymia
Abstract or Description
It has been argued, in view of the social evolutionary origins of music and the social deficits found in autism, that individuals with autism will be emotionally unresponsive to music. However, a recent study of high-functioning adults with autism has shown that they appear to have a range of responses to music similar to typically developing people, including the deliberate use of music for mood management. In examining why these responses appear unaffected in autism, we explore possible mechanisms for musical mood induction in listeners, hypothesizing that the simulation theory of empathy may illuminate current controversies over the nature of emotion in music. Drawing on these ideas, we put forward suggestions for using a simple associative learning process between musically induced emotions and their cognitive correlates for the clinical treatment of alexithymia, a disorder that is common in autism and characterized by an absence of cognitive insight into one’s emotions.