Neural pathways for language in autism: the potential for music-based treatments

Future Neurol. 2010 Nov;5(6):797-805. doi: 10.2217/fnl.10.55.


Language deficits represent the core diagnostic characteristics of autism, and some of these individuals never develop functional speech. The language deficits in autism may be due to structural and functional abnormalities in certain language regions (e.g., frontal and temporal), or due to altered connectivity between these brain regions. In particular, a number of anatomical pathways that connect auditory and motor brain regions (e.g., the arcuate fasciculus, the uncinate fasciculus and the extreme capsule) may be altered in individuals with autism. These pathways may also provide targets for experimental treatments to facilitate communication skills in autism. We propose that music-based interventions (e.g., auditory-motor mapping training) would take advantage of the musical strengths of these children, and are likely to engage, and possibly strengthen, the connections between frontal and temporal regions bilaterally. Such treatments have important clinical potential in facilitating expressive language in nonverbal children with autism.