Pleasant music increases cardiac autonomic responses both in young adults with autism spectrum disorder and typical development

      People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to have difficulty in verbally expressing their emotion. We aim to utilize physiological responses of heart rate variability to evaluate the emotional state of ASD people as an aid for smooth communication between people with ASD and typical development (TD). We used music stimuli to evoke pleasant emotion both in ASD and TD participants and investigated the autonomic nervous activity via heart rate variability analysis. Young adults with TD (n = 8) and ASD (n = 14) participated in the experiment. They first listened to five, 30s of popular songs in series with 30s of rest in between the songs. Second, participants were given 6 minutes to freely listen to any of the five songs. The electrocardiogram was continuously measured through the experiment with a telemetry system. The pleasant feeling evoked with each song was evaluated by post-experiment questionnaire and the number of replays at the second experiment. All participants showed statistically significant correlation between the subjective pleasantness and the number of replays. At the first listening of the song that they evaluated as pleasant, participants with TD tended to increase sympathetic activity and those with ASD showed significantly increased HR compared to less pleasant songs. The similar behavioral and physiological responses for pleasant music across TD and ASD people suggest that the heart rate variability could be a possible tool to measure the pleasant feeling not only from people with TD but also from those with ASD.
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