Working in the Kraus Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory for the past two years has opened my eyes to the numerous benefits auditory and musical training can have on the brain. Additionally, having worked more than eight years with people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which impairs the capacity for interaction and communication, I began to wonder if training could prove to be beneficial to this population. The tone of one’s voice is determined by pitch; however, if an individual with ASD had deficits in neural encoding, he or she may be unable to interpret the ‘tone of voice’ and grasp the connotation behind what is being said when communicating with others. Some individuals with ASD have been found to have a deficiency in neural encoding and following of pitch (Russo et al., 2008). Piecing together previous research and experience, I began to wonder if short term musical training could positively affect the neural response of a child with ASD. Therefore, I will be testing to see if short-term musical instrument instruction can improve neural speech encoding and following of pitch in children with ASD. Demonstration of the effectiveness of a short-term private musical training program for improving neural encoding and pitch following would suggest that short term musical training can be an important adjunct to the management of deficits in detecting ‘tone of voice’ in children with autism spectrum disorder.
In the 1970s and 80s the feminist and battered women’s movement transformed public perception of domestic violence from a private family matter to a crime punishable by legal sanctions. Consequently, many states passed laws criminalizing domestic violence. In turn, domestic violence cases filled criminal court dockets around the country. Suddenly, judges played a major role in implementing and interpreting domestic violence laws. Additionally, judges exercised considerable latitude when ruling on sentencing, restraining orders, and child custody issues. Despite judges’ central role in domestic violence cases, the canon of literature on domestic violence has paid very little attention to understanding how judges actually interpret and ultimately decide cases. To better understand the judicial decision making process in domestic violence cases, I have been invited by the First Justice, David Weingarten, to observe court proceedings and judicial conferences at the Roxbury District Court in Boston, Massachusetts. By employing ethnographic research methods, I will investigate the legal reasoning judges use when adjudicating domestic violence cases. Domestic violence cases are defined by the unique relationship between the victim and the defendant. Consequently, the cases present a multitude of personal factors that may complicate the facts or the application of the law. I am seeking to understand how, if at all, judges consider the personal dimensions of domestic violence when ruling on these cases. Because of these uniquely personal factors – such as child custody issues and mutual dependence on a sole income, do judges handle domestic violence cases differently than other criminal cases? Through a more comprehensive understanding of the judicial decision making process, I hope to learn more about the efficacy of domestic violence laws at protecting victims, reducing recidivism, and protecting the Constitutional rights of the accused.