Vocal Emotion Processing In Autism Spectrum Disorder & Twin Study On Singing Ability

Valerie Yap & Yi Ting Tan

University Of Melbourne, Old Arts Building, Theatre B


6:00 pm

This seminar is presented as part of the Australian Music and Psychology Society (AMPS) seminar series.

Topic 1: Individual Differences in Vocal Emotion Processing: Findings from the General Population and Implications for Autism Spectrum Disorder (Valerie Yap, PhD Candidate).

While the “voice” is a powerful medium for communicating affective states, little is known about the role of empathy and personality traits on one’s ability to process emotions from the vocal cues of others. This presentation will provide an overview of existing behavioural/neuroimaging research that support the hypothesised relationship between these constructs, and outline findings from our novel study exploring this relationship in a sample of typically developing adults. Implications of our findings for understanding the social communication difficulties in Autism Spectrum Disorder will also be discussed.

Topic 2: “Let’s Hear Twins Sing!”: The first online twin study on singing ability (Yi Ting Tan, PhD Candidate).

“Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.” William Byrd
Singing is a ubiquitous trait in all known human societies. The ability to sing emerges early and spontaneously in human development and is thought to precede speech abilities. Although singing appears to be a natural disposition, the degree of singing aptitude varies across individuals. At one end of the ability spectrum there are those who cannot carry a tune, whereas at the other end, there are individuals who appear to have naturally good singing ability even before receiving any formal training. While singing confers numerous physical, cognitive, mental and social benefits to humans, a clear understanding of singing ability and its emergence and development is still lacking. Investigating the extent to which singing ability is shaped by genetic and environmental influences will thus help to shed some light on how “all men would learn to sing” and enjoy all the benefits and gratification that arise from singing.

To this end, we have collaborated with the Australian Twin Registry and conducted the world’s first online twin study to objectively assess the heritability of singing ability, focusing on pitch production. In this seminar, our preliminary findings from the twin study will be presented. “This research was facilitated through access to the Australian Twin Registry, a national resource supported by a Centre of Research Excellence Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.”