Learning to play the drums could make a big difference for adolescents with autism, with new research finding that acquiring the skill leads to better emotional control and fewer behavior issues.

Researchers looked at 36 people with autism between the ages of 16 and 20 with no drumming experience. Nineteen of them received 45-minute drum lessons twice each week for eight weeks while the rest took no lessons. All of the participants were given a drumming assessment and an MRI scan at the beginning and end of the study and their guardians were asked about their behavior.

At the conclusion of the intervention, those who improved their drumming abilities showed a reduction in hyperactivity, inattention and repetitive behaviors and they displayed better control of their emotions, according to findings published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Moreover, the MRI scans showed that drum training helped synchronize brain regions that are responsible for inhibitory control, preventing impulsivity, the researchers said.

Those behind the study indicated that the results support anecdotal reports that drumming is beneficial to those with autism.

“These findings provide direct evidence that learning to drum leads to positive changes in brain function and behavior among autistic adolescents,” said Marcus Smith, a professor of applied sport and exercise science at the University of Chichester in the United Kingdom and a co-author of the study.