Virginia Tech researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech presented some of their research to Princess Marie of Denmark at the 2023 Society for Neuroscience Conference in Washington, D.C.

During this conversation, Julia Basso, assistant professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise and affiliate faculty member of the School of Neuroscience and the Autism Clinic and Center for Autism Research, and her research team from the Embodied Brain Lab shared their research "Examining the Neurological and Behavioral Effects of Musical Theater Training on People with Disabilities."

Lead author Noor Tasnim, a translational biology, medicine, and health graduate student mentored by Basso, who is also a fellow of the Center for Health Behaviors Research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, delved into the exploration of the impact of performing arts training on the brain and behavior of individuals with disabilities. Their findings suggest that engaging in performing arts may offer a unique avenue to enhance mental health, particularly addressing anxiety within this population.

They also found that musical theatre engagement enhances the flow of information within the brain, also known as intra-brain synchrony, as well as the interaction of brain activity between the performers, often referred to as inter-brain synchrony.

A group of people engage in discussion in front of a research poster at a conference.
Noor Tasnim (at right), a translational biology, medicine, and health graduate student, shares insights with Princess Marie of Denmark (at left) through a research poster presentation. Photo courtesy of Jeff Nyveen.

Through this community-based participatory research and collaboration with STEP VA, a nonprofit organization in Fredericksburg, the findings underscore the commitment to empowering individuals with disabilities through musical theatre. This collaboration adds a significant dimension to the global recognition of Virginia Tech's research efforts in the field of neuroscience and inclusivity.

Princess Marie of Denmark, known for her advocacy within the autism spectrum disorder community, has been a patron of the Autism National Association for years. Her presence at the conference and engagement with the research aligns with her dedication to advancing understanding and support for individuals with autism. Earlier this year, Princess Marie delivered an opening speech at the SIKON conference, further contributing to her ongoing commitment to autism awareness and education.

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