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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Virtuoso performance kicks off newly created Centre for Autism in Reading

Written by The Editorial Team

A performance by a talented pianist Derek Paravicini heralded the first event for the newly created Centre for Autism at the University of Reading.

Performing a mixture of classical and contemporary pieces, Paravicini wowed the conference with his playing ability, and spoke about how having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affected his understanding of music.

The concert formed part of a conference presenting the latest research into the links between autism and music by Dr Fang Liu, as well as presentations by the Head of the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Professor Laurie Butler, and head of the Centre for Autism Professor Bhismadev Chakrabarti.

Prof Bhismadev Chakrabarti (pictured) said of the new Centre: “The current Centre represents the coming together of a quorum of autism researchers who work on a diverse range of topics that include both fundamental research questions, and more applied ones. Fundamental research at the Centre consists of efforts to uncover the basis for the social behavioural difficulties and sensory processing issues in individuals with autism, as well as the link between music and language.

"More applied research aims of the Centre include efforts to develop more effective tools to detect autism risk early in low-resource settings globally, as well as to develop parent-mediated interventions.”

The study by Dr Fang Liu looks as congenital amusia (CA), which is a disorder of music perception and production such that individuals with CA can neither sing in tune nor detect out-of-tune notes in melodies, while Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by atypical social functioning, communication, and repetitive behaviors. 

Dr Liu said: “The famous cases of the two disorders in history were Freud and Mozart, who exhibited some of the traits that confirm to what we now call CA and ASD.

“My project aims to investigate the underlying mechanisms of pitch processing in language and music through comparative studies of the two neurodevelopmental disorders (CA and ASD). The two disorders demonstrate intriguing differences in music, language, emotion, pitch, memory, and cognitive processing that may provide us with a unique opportunity for examining the underlying mechanisms of normal music and language functioning.”