Music has been identified as a strength in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder; however, there is currently no
neuroscientific evidence supporting its benefits. Given its universal appeal, intrinsic reward value and ability to modify
brain and behaviour, music may be a potential therapeutic aid in autism. Here we evaluated the neurobehavioural
outcomes of a music intervention, compared to a non-music control intervention, on social communication and brain
connectivity in school-age children (ISRCTN26821793). Fifty-one children aged 6–12 years with autism were
randomized to receive 8–12 weeks of music (n = 26) or non-music intervention (n = 25). The music intervention
involved use of improvisational approaches through song and rhythm to target social communication. The non-music
control was a structurally matched behavioural intervention implemented in a non-musical context. Groups were
assessed before and after intervention on social communication and resting-state functional connectivity of frontotemporal brain networks. Communication scores were higher in the music group post-intervention (difference score
= 4.84, P = .01). Associated post-intervention resting-state brain functional connectivity was greater in music vs. nonmusic groups between auditory and subcortical regions (z = 3.94, P < .0001) and auditory and fronto-motor regions (z
= 3.16, P < .0001). Post-intervention brain connectivity was lower between auditory and visual regions in the music
compared to the non-music groups, known to be over-connected in autism (z = 4.01, P < .00001). Post-intervention
brain connectivity in the music group was related to communication improvement (z = 3.57, P < .0001). This study
provides the first evidence that 8–12 weeks of individual music intervention can indeed improve social
communication and functional brain connectivity, lending support to further investigations of neurobiologically
motivated models of music interventions in autism.Music therapy social communication auditory motor connectivity children autism