A Pilot Study Examining the Effects of Music Training on Attention in Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Jul 28;22(15):5642. doi: 10.3390/s22155642.


Prior studies indicate differences in brain volume and neurophysiological responses of musicians relative to non-musicians. These differences are observed in the sensory, motor, parietal, and frontal cortex. Children with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience deficits in auditory, motor, and executive function domains. Therefore, we hypothesized that short-term music training in children with an FASD due to prenatal alcohol exposure may improve brain function. Children (N = 20) with an FASD were randomized to participate in either five weeks of piano training or to a control group. Selective attention was evaluated approximately seven weeks apart (pre-/post-music training or control intervention), examining longitudinal effects using the Attention Networks Test (ANT), a well-established paradigm designed to evaluate attention and inhibitory control, while recording EEG. There was a significant group by pre-/post-intervention interaction for the P250 ms peak of the event-related potential and for theta (4-7 Hz) power in the 100-300 ms time window in response to the congruent condition when the flanking stimuli were oriented congruently with the central target stimulus in fronto-central midline channels from Cz to Fz. A trend for improved reaction time at the second assessment was observed for the music trained group only. These results support the hypothesis that music training changes the neural indices of attention as assessed by the ANT in children with an FASD. This study should be extended to evaluate the effects of music training relative to a more closely matched active control and determine whether additional improvements emerge with longer term music training.

Keywords: EEG; attention networks test; fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; music training; neurodevelopment; prenatal alcohol exposure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Reaction Time / physiology