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SMPC 2015 | Lucy McGarry, Ph.D.

Poster # 1:

SMPC ASD poster 2015

The Acting Game: Mimicry of emotional song and speech to enhance emotion skills in autism

Lucy McGarry (1)*, Frank Russo (2)

  • University of Western Ontario. London, Ontario, CANADA
  • Ryerson University. Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

 * lmcgarry@uwo.ca

Researchers have found that individuals naturally mimic facial expressions during observation of song (Chan, Livingstone, & Russo, 2013) and speech (Turner, McIntosh & Moody, 2015) to facilitate perception. This simulation mechanism may be related to mirror neuron system (MNS) activity; individual differences in MNS functionality (Gazzola, Aziz-Zedeh & Keysers, 2006) as well as spontaneous mimicry (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999) are associated with empathy. Individuals with autism exhibit a deficit in MNS functionality as well as spontaneous mimicry during social interactions, which is thought to underpin characteristic deficits in empathy (Williams, Whiten, Suddendorf, & Perrett, 2001). We have created a computerized acting game for children with autism, in which voluntary vocal-facial mimicry is elicited and points are awarded for guessing the correct emotion of the person being mimicked. During early stages of game play the majority of stimuli are songs. As the game progresses the balance tips in favor of speech stimuli. The intention of this progression is to maximize engagement as children with autism have been found to be especially responsive to musical stimuli (Whipple, 2004). Nine children on the autism spectrum have participated in this ongoing study thus far. EEG measurement of the mu rhythm (indicative of MNS activity), EMG measurement of facial mimicry, behavioral indexes of emotion identification accuracy, and scales of social responsiveness were administered to participants before and after 2 weeks of daily game play. Preliminary data analysis has revealed improvements in accuracy of emotional identifications of sung stimuli relative to a control group. Scores on the Social Responsiveness Scale also improved. We predict that daily game play will also facilitate EEG and EMG indices of simulation during observation of emotional sung and spoken sentences.

Poster # 2:

SMPC lyric mem 2015

Factors contributing to long-term memory for song lyrics

Lucy McGarry (1)*, Adrian Owen (1), Jessica Grahn (1)

  • University of Western Ontario. London, Ontario, CANADA

* lmcgarry@uwo.ca

Some individuals exhibit an extremely high capacity to remember lyrics to songs, and evidence suggests that this memory can be retained for the very long term (Bartlett, 1980). Research on the role of music in memory for text suggests that melodic and rhythmic structure, as well as the relationship between melody and text cues during both encoding and retrieval, facilitates memory for text, especially when the song’s melody is simple (Wallace, 1994), familiar (Purnell-Webb & Speelman, 2008), and positively-valenced (Eschrich, Münte, & Altenmüller, 2008). While research findings have been mixed (Kilgour, Jacobson, & Cuddy, 2000), some researchers have been prompted to ask whether memory for music is “special” and distinct from other types of memory (Schulkind, 2009).

Empirical research has been conducted examining short-term recall for song lyrics learned in a laboratory setting, but less research has focused on longer term memory for song lyrics learned organically, and it is still unclear which mechanisms facilitate enhanced memory for lyrics.

This pilot survey study sought to explore self-reported factors that might relate to detailed recall for song lyrics. Participants were asked a variety of demographic questions about their interactions with music. They were also asked to name up to one song from each decade, from the 1940’s to present, for which they could remember all or most of the lyrics to. Participants rated their previous interactions with each reported song on a series of 17 factors. Past experiences contributing most to recalled songs included liking, repeated listening, singing the song out loud, groove, positive emotional valence, and emotional arousal. Participants also reported that rhythm and melody both supported their memory for the lyrics. Tendency to dance and tendency to sing were correlated with participants’ rated tendencies to remember lots of lyrics.

These results corroborate previous research and also provide routes for follow-up. Upcoming studies will manipulate the factors that participants rated highly in the present study, to examine the extent to which each of these factors may influence learning of song lyrics.

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