Auditory Integration Training, AIT, Berard AIT, Auditory, Auditory Integration

 AIT Helps Improve the Lives and Learning of Those with Autism, ADHD, Hyperacute Hearing, Speech Delays & 10 Days.

The AIT Institute is the #1 Provider off AIT At Home Services globally and is the largest AIT resource website in the world.

AIT is the #1 clinically studied auditory based educational intervention!  All sessions are conveniently completed at home under the supervision of an AIT Practitioner. AIT services are available in the USA, Canada and other English speaking countries.

AIT requires 10 hours of sound therapy, with 20 sessions of 30 minutes each, done 2 times daily over 10 consecutive days.  This listening therapy helps to correct hyperacute hearing,  tinnitus and other auditory challenges.

AIT has been used successfully with children and adults with many different diagnoses for over 60 years.  

Remarkable results are achieved for many families. There are more than 60+ years of clinical research and 28+ scientific studies on AIT.

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Auditory Integration Training and The Brain

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Auditory Integration Training is a foundational therapy that trains and coordinates the efforts of the ear and the audio-recipient structures in the brain.  This approach was developed by Dr. Guy Berard who was inspired by the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis.


This is a highly specialized system, which is capable of a wide range of functional plasticity and a great deal of potential to acquire different phonetic systems.  (Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Lutz Jäncke (Project Leader) at the University of Zurich. In a study using functional MRI, the researchers at University of Zurich are exploring the degree to which short term influences can alter the functional neuroanatomy of the auditory system.  They are investigating the activation of the auditory cortex and its adjacent cortical regions during auditory stimulation.  The scientists are studying the auditory cortices of musicians and non-musicians.  They hypothesize that the human auditory cortex is highly plastic and capable of adapting to long-term auditory stimulation.  This is important research since with AIT, our goal is to change how the brain processes sounds.  We use randomized music to present the brain with unpredictable and novel sounds to process. Our clinical evidence indicates that AIT has a profound effect on the brain’s rate of processing  sounds. 


AIT like many other therapies helps to bring new dimension to the brain functioning.  It makes the brain more efficient.  AIT is structured listening program.

It takes 10 days to re-train the ears and re-train the brain to function more efficiently.

AIT, using the Berard method is a 10 day program designed to improve language comprehension, clarify hearing and reduce hearing sensitivities.

Each day of AIT consists of 2-thirty minute sessions.  Clients wear studio quality headphones and listen to “music” that sounds like its been stirred up in the blender.  That’s called “randomization”.

The idea is to make the “music” move.  The brain learns through movement.  In order to understand the process, think of movement in terms of fluctuating frequencies and fluctuating volumes of sounds.  AIT influences changes in brain operation by presenting the ears with fluctuating sounds, which heightens the brain’s attention to flow along the auditory pathways of the brain.


When the brain hears these mixed up and novel sounds, it has to switch gears to a more attentive state.

Over and over again the brain has to sort and re-assemble the sound segments.  As this is happening inside the brain, many brain structures get practice in communicating with adjacent brain structures in a new series of circuitry and by making new connections.

This information flow is what the brain considers to be movement – in a synaptic sense.  This neuronal activity allows the individual to experience a heightened awareness of sound processing.  During the sessions, the brain is practicing a series of new levels of attentional states.


As I have observed individuals throughout the 13 years of practice in the field of AIT, four categories of brain functioning have come to mind:

  • Neuroplasticity this is the recognition that change happens in the brain according to experiences that therapies and learning provide to it.  Plasticity isn’t possible without sufficient attention.  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to shape or mold itself by expansion or contraction of neuronal processes due to injury, electrical activities or chemical stimulation.  It is dependent upon a structural change of the neuron.
  • Attention This is the brain’s response to the world around it and also its attempt to encounter the world and its elements.
  • Motivation  This is the emotional side of attention.  E-motion is motion outward – it is interactional.  It’s the brain attempt to initiate action or movement.  This is a purposeful  emotional state which often leads to interaction with another person or thing.
  • And Movement The means by which the brain learns more about its world.  Movement provides the brain and the individual with an opportunity to adjust to input.  It is one of the outcomes of motivation and emotional curiosity.  Many times movement attempts to find stasis. Think of movement as information flow along neuronal pathways.


It was developed by Dr. Berard in France nearly 35 years ago.  Berard's method is based upon the work of Alfred Tomatis.  The Tomatis style of Auditory Training is a long, not as intense experience as the Berard method.  The Berard method was introduced to the US in the very late 1980’s, it was initially embraced by the autism support groups through the work of Annabel Stehli, who wrote “Sound of a Miracle” and later authored a series of anecdotal accounts, called “Dancing in the Rain”Berard AIT was initially developed for those who had sensitive or painful hearing and then became an alternative method of helping people with major depression and suicidal tendencies.


We look at test results and then compare that to a health and behavior history. 

Many people benefit from AIT, so diagnosis is not a necessary criterion. AIT has benefited people with:

  • closed-head injury,
  • people with learning disabilities,
  • people on the autism spectrum,
  • people on the ADD spectrum,
  • people with Down Syndrome,
  • people with Rett Syndrome,
  • people with Angelman Syndrome,
  • people with Williams Syndrome,
  • people with episodic or major depression and many people in between. 


There are 4 neuro-functional deficits in autism, according to Lyn Waterhouse at Trenton State College:

  • The first is a problem with the hippocampus (memory center), too much cell-packing.  It’s inefficient and this means that there’s too much fragmentation.
  • The second is that the center of the limbic system, the amygdala is not assigning significance to events as they happen.
  • The third the oxytocin system is faulty and does not allow sufficient bonding and affiliative behavior.
  • The fourth is too much attention.  Over-processing of meaningless data.  There is a problem with the temporal & parietal lobes.  Ratey 326

Remember the importance of the spectrum factor, these deficits and symptoms will array themselves along a range of degree of intensity.  Therefore, there is a range of effectiveness of therapies for different people, different degrees of effectiveness.


For many people one time through AIT is sufficient.  For people on the autism spectrum or those with severe forms of sensory integration disorder, they may find themselves repeating sessions.  Most of the people with mood disorder find one time through to be sufficient; however, Berard found that those with severe depression, especially with suicidal tendencies, should go through multiple times.  


When we began our practice in 1991, we used an audiometer to do our intake, midpoint and exit testing. But when people are very young or when they are non-verbal or have motor timing problems, this may not be a satisfactory way of finding out how people hear.  So we found out about some equipment that was manufactured in the UK and was used to test babies.  This equipment is called Otoacoustic Emissions Testing.  It sends signals into the ear canal and then registers the feedback or echo of the cochlea.  The signals have to transit the canal, pass through the ear drum and then hit the cochlea.  That journey is recorded electronically and is sent to the computer as a graph.  So while there really isn’t a direct comparison to audiometry, it gives a more reliable view of the hearing profile.  It can be made more reliable when behaviors are quiet, the body is relaxed and ambient noise is reduced. 

When we have a test of the hearing profile in hand, we look to find out which ear needs the most work. One of the elements we’ve noticed over the years is that usually there is some asymmetry in hearing potential ear to ear.  So we look at the ear that needs the most work & pick out the frequencies that are most easily registered.  Then we take that frequency or frequencies out of the music presentation that will follow over the next 10 days. 

This approach is much like “Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy” devised for stroke patients.  This type of therapy helps to remap the motor strip of the brain.  The therapy is used to restore functions to limbs of stroke patients who have lost function as much as 45 years before!  Schwartz & Begley 192     Edward Taub did landmark work in this area. 

The reason I have compared AIT to Constraint Induced Movement therapy is because the protocol calls for restricting the easily heard frequencies and increasing stimulation of the frequencies registering as troughs on the hearing profile.  Furthermore, added this mix is the randomization of the sounds.  The remaining sounds cut in and out rapidly and unpredictably.


Some of the outcomes of AIT are better attention, better listening, more motivation to engage in social communication, fewer overt symptoms of depression, better eye contact, better sensory integration, and better balance and coordination. 

No brain really WANTS to change, so while a person is undergoing AIT, some adverse reactions may show up in terms of behaviors and visceral responses.  There may be some over-activity, some fatigue, and increase or decrease in appetite, more irritability, some nausea, as a result of possible vestibular disturbance. 

The unfamiliar, unpredictable stimulus of randomized “music” leads itself to brain disturbance, which leads to a reorganization of neurons and re-routing of information across many structures of the brain.  Twenty half hour practice sessions, give plenty of practice in moving around the new routes and leads to new attentional levels in the brain.  Attention in the brain gains new vistas.


The brain breaks incoming data into tiny bits.  It distributes these pieces to different departments and then reassembles them, collecting other useful pieces of information along the way that relate to our past experiences and even what we WANT to hear.

The sounds signals are actually registered as pressure changes, like vibrations, that hit the ear drum & move the little bones in the ear.  They travel further into the ear to the cochlea – shaped like a seashell – a spiral container filled with hair cells that bend as they are vibrated.  Each of the 15,000 hair cells responds to particular frequencies at particular loudness.  Ratey 91

  • The hair cell motion is converted into electrical signals that fire neurons. 
  • Each hair cell is sensitive to a limited frequency range

Our brains actually SHAPE what we hear.

There are more neural networks extending FROM the brain TO the ears than are coming from the ears to the brain.  Ratey 93

Layer upon layer of sound units pile up and beg to be registered by a whole array of brain departments.  The brain develops “models” of what it expects to hear – phonemes, words, or music.

Those who are dyslexic or who have a condition called Central Auditory Processing Disorder, CAPD, must be continually surprised at what they hear.  Their phonemic models continually break down.  This leads to a sort of communication traffic jam.  Ratey 93


First the ear processes the sounds.  Then the information is broken down & channeled to the brainstem, through the auditory nerve.  This nerve has 25,000 nerve fibers – which are not many compared to the nerve bundles for vision and touch.  The nerves are always fired up, ready to take information to the right spots in the brain.


The brainstem sorts its pieces of information by tone and timbre or quality of the piece of sound.  The brainstem preserves the sound and starts to distinguish the sets of sounds as phonemes, that don’t carry any meaning in themselves.  Ratey 94  The medulla examines the vibrations for spatial characteristics.  Ratey 94  We maintain mental maps in our cortex to estimate WHERE the sound comes from – per research that has come out from Michael Graziano at Princeton University.    Ratey 113


The brainstem sends the sound vibrations to the superior olivary to figure out that louder sounds are closer.  Here is where it is interesting to bring in information from Scientific American Feb 2000 article on autism by Patricia Rodier.  She notes that in autopsy studies that people with autism have a “disappeared” superior olivary!!!!  She notes that there are other physical characteristics and brain measurement anolomalies with people with autism. 

The olivaries send messages to the midbrain and this coordinates the body’s reflexes and reactions.  The superior colliculus in the midbrain is crucial for integrating sensory information from the sensory information systems.  It tries to bring about a unified response to experiences.   Ratey 94  The Superior Olivary has a lot to do with timing.  It interprets information from both ears.


From the superior colliculus, the auditory impulses travel to the thalamus and then to the primary auditory cortex in the temporal lobe.  This links it to the secondary auditory cortex and that structure connects to other parts of the brain which coordinate hearing with memories and awareness.  As the signals travel to the medial geniculate bodies (in the thalamus), the signal is divided between 2 types of cells:  the parvocellular and the magnocellular cells.  The magnocellular process the rapidly incoming sounds & send them to the auditory cortex.


By the time the sound signals arrive in the cortex, the columns of neurons there are sensitive to specific differences in sound frequencies and changes in frequencies and cause different columns to fire.  Then the cortex must do a comparison between the patterns generated by the columns of neurons with the stored patterns with which it’s already familiar.  Ratey 94/95


As you can see there’s a very complicated route that these signals must travel.  Auditory impulses travel across a large neural landscape.  The left and the right sides of the brain must work together to discriminate complex sounds.  The right side examines the sounds for harmonies and relationships between close sounds.  The left side compares auditory information with the language centers.  Ratey 95/96


Broca’s Area is located in the left frontal lobe near the primary motor cortex.  Paula Tallal (FastForWord fame) has found that fast processing of speech takes place in Broca’s area of the Left Hemisphere.  Broca’s area is thought of as the controller of the motor cortex (controller of voice box and tongue).  Apparently speech has a great deal to do with the movement regions of the brain.  Ratey 97

In the 1990’s, researcher Michael Merzenich at the University of California (San Francisco) found in animal research that auditory inputs have the power to change the brain.  By altering sound input, they found changes happening in the auditory cortices of monkeys’ brains – this factor changed the rate at which the brain processes sounds.

When Merzenich and Tallal put their research together, they discovered that children with specific language impairment construct their auditory cortex from faulty inputs.  They found these children take as long as 1/3 to 1/5 of a second to decode mini sound segments, this is as long as it takes neruo-typs to process SYLLABLES.  One factor in the specific language impairments were the number & intensity of ear infections.  Schwartz & Begley

AIT, like many other therapies helps to bring new dimension to the brain and how the brain operates.  I like to think that it makes the brain more efficient.


In 1999 there was research performed by Rainer Klinke at the Physiologisches Institute of Frankfurt, Germany.  He tested the effects of cochlear implants on a group of 3 to 4 month old kittens who had been born deaf.  Brain imaging showed that the unstimulated auditory nervous system in the deaf kitties had not developed like normal cats.  After the implants, the kitties began to respond to sounds in the same way cats born with normal hearing did. 

Not surprisingly, their auditory ciritces change too.  Within a short time the size of the region of the auditory cortex that responded to sound had increased.  The strength of the electrical signals in the auditory cortex rose and measures of information processing in the cortex increased as well.  Schwartz & Begley 192

When scientists remove the cochlea of lab animals in one ear soon after birth.  The number and size of auditory neurons in the brainstem are reduced.  But this effect can be reversed again by providing sensory input.  For instance, with congenitally deaf children given cochlear implants (which bypass the damaged sensory hair cells of the inner ear) and carry acoustic signals directly to the cortex of the brain, the sudden onset of sensory – in this case auditory – input leads to nearly perfect speaking and hearing as well as individuals with normal language development.  Schwartz & Begley 125


Here are some interesting statistics about the brain:

  • The brain is the greediest organ of the body.
  • It burns oxygen & glucose at 10 times the rate of all other body tissues – at rest!
  • The brain is only 2.5% of the total body weight, but is responsible for 20% of the energy consumed when the body is at rest.  Greenfield 27
  • The brains of children between the ages of 3 and 10 consume two times as much of the blood nutrient glucose as those of adults.  Ratey 35
  • The brains of children are less efficient and therefore need more fuel.
  • Auditory neurons appear in the first 3 weeks after conception. 
  • Auditory centers in the brainstem emerge by 13 weeks of gestation.

The brain is vital for processing and coordinating information that floods through the senses.  The outputs of the brain are expressed as movements (muscular and neural).  Greenfield 33  All human communication relies on movement whether its body language, how the lips, tongue and mouth move when speaking or in physical gestures, (like a hug).

Neurons actually anticipate signals – that is – they are primed to expect the same old kind of signal.  But when they get a new intensity of signal or a new nuance of signal, they perceive the input as new & quite disturbing.  Greenfield 33  This disturbance is good, since it leads to reorganization.  Ratey 56 

  • A baby’s brain contains something on the order of 100 billion nerve cells.
  • Each neuron makes an average of 2,500 connections or synapses.
  • The connectivity peak may be 15,000 synapses by the time the child is 2 or 3 & then the system goes through a period of “pruning”.
  • The synapses that stay are more efficient and carry traffic more reliably. 
  • The motto of neurons is survival of the busiest.  The adult brain boasts about 100 trillion synapses, some estimates go as high as 1,000 trillion.  Schwartz & Begley 117


Movement is a very important factor in brain development.  It’s important for most brain functions, like memory, emotion, language and learning, cognition and to behavior.  Ratey 148  You will hear about the cerebellum anytime you hear about movement and the brain.  The cerebellum coordinates physical movement, as well as the movement of thoughts. 

The brain circuits that control, sequence and time mental acts are the same circuits that are used to control or order, sequence & time physical acts.    Ratey 148/149  Motor activity takes place in 3 stages:

  • We analyze the incoming data (either external or internal)
  • We formulate & monitor a response plan – this is the stage that involves thought-processing.  It is here at this sequencing stage that involves organizing the serial order of information & integrating this information with the previously learned data.
  • We execute the plan

We can surmise that exercise can produce chemical changes that give us stronger, healthier & happier brains.  We must not forget to view PLAY as a motor activity – it helps learning & social relationships develop. PLAY is an activity that gives children a sense of mastery & is rewarding.  Play as a motor activity prepares us for later adult social interactions.  Ratey 176/177


The entire front half of the brain is devoted to organizing action – physical & mental.  The frontal cortex is the most interconnected part of the brain.  Ratey 148  The primary motor cortex & the premotor cortex are located here.  Ratey 156  This is where our “self-awareness” lies.  It is driven by motor neurons.  Another actor is the cerebellum as mentioned before.  The cerebellum heavily influences the cortex.  Ratey 151

The sensory cortex located just behind the primary motor area gathers additional data about our thoughts, past experiences, emotions and stored memories, which gives our movements & actions extra meaning, and complexity.  Ratey 157

Motor function happens under the influence of attention & emotion.  Our brains constantly use attention and emotion to determine what is important & what is not.  This ability determines whether we survive.  The feedback loop is extra tight between the motor system and the attentional and emotional circuits.  Ratey 171


Music makes both sides of the brain work interdependently.  The left side is better at targeting the succession of sounds – the rhythm.  The right side works on elements of timbre – sound quality.

Henri Platel (from the University of Caen, France) used PET scans to study non-musical men as they listened to classical music and the random sequences of musical notes.  He found that Broca’s area was activated then his subjects listened to classical (well-known) pieces of music.  Ratey 97

  • The brain is an organ that breaks sensory information apart and reassembles it to form the final “perception”.  There is not single “attention center.”  There are multiple distribution systems.
  • The prefrontal cortex occupies itself with task related memory and planning. 
  • The parietal cortex involved itself with bodily and environmental awareness 
  • The anterior cingulate is concerned with motivation. 
  • The cerebellum and the basal ganglia center their efforts with habit formation and coordination of movement.  Schwartz & Begley 331


It’s important to think of the brain as a series of systems, overlaid and inter-related.  The cerebellum plays an important role in motor memory.  Ratey 204   Eric Courschene is a well known researcher whose work in autism autopsy studies has shown that there is a reduction and disarray in the number of Purkinje neurons in the cerebellums of people with autism.  These are filtering neurons; they have much to do with the information that leaves the cerebellum to make its way to the frontal cortex.  Ratey 307

This deficit in the function of the cerebellum has a great effect on how the world may be perceived by a person with autism.  The world may look very chaotic and incoherent.  The cerebellum has a big job of coordinating the incoming visual, auditory and somatosensory information.  Depending on how the information is filtered on its outgoing trip to the higher parts of the brain, the ability to shift attention from one sensory issue to the next is in peril. 

The cerebellum is recently been implicated in how one functions socially.  It is an important area of the brain as the cerebellum is a star player in cognition.  The cerebellum is a major association center a major switchboard in regulating attentional states.  Ratey 305

The brain relies upon a sensitive system of feedback loops.  For instance, motor memory is achieved with a very sophisticated feedback system. Ratey 179  In order for effective motor memories to operate the frontal cortex plans & organizes the events, while depending upon the basal ganglia & hippocampus to store memories in long-term storage banks.  Ratey 205/206  The frontal lobe is termed the brain’s executive function. 

Sensory input in itself it not responsible for brain change.  The most important factor is the attentional state.  Research by Michael Merzenich in 1993 indicates that passive stimulation doesn’t do the job of changing the brain circuits.  When monkeys listened to specific frequencies – auditory cortex landscape enlarged, but when the monkeys were distracted, they lost circuitry strength & landscape.   Schwartz & Begley

For people with autism, information is unfiltered, poorly routed and they are unable to “pay attention”.  The sensory information speeds along too fast for them to catch and process.  Ratey 78  Sensory integration must be intact in order for the perception of the world to make sense.  Ratey 82  This is the ability of the brain to make new connections and assume new roles.  Plasticity follows an increase or decrease in sensory input. 

Neuroplasticity is concerned with taking over unused regions of the brain or remodeling the whole landscape.    Schwartz & Begley  The simple act of paying attention can make physical changes within the brain.  Attention is influenced by the limbic system & importantly the amygdala.  Ratey 121  Experience molds the brain, but only a brain that pays attention.  Neuroplasticity or cortical reorganization is use induced.  Schwartz & Begley  Cells that fire together, wire together, strengthening the synaptic routings.  This means that the cells must “practice together” over and over again.   Schwartz & Begley 107 


Emotion is movement outward.  It conveys our important internal states and needs. Ratey 227/228  The limbic system is an incredibly interconnect circuitry which is the launching point for emotions.  The upper cortex and the limbic system are in continuous feedback loop status.  Ratey 228

  • Motivation is a process the ties emotion & action. 
  • Motivation is the director of emotions. 
  • Motivation is the pressure to act.  Ratey 247


There are some very important studies that show how AIT works. 

    The first significant one is a PET scan study by High fill & Cimorelli, from North Carolina.  This is single-subject study using Positron Emissions Testing to show the changes in the brain pre-AIT & Post-AIT.  The PET scans show how much energy the brains use.  The PET graphs show more efficient use of energy in more areas of the brain.  This was an 8 year old boy with mental retardation and autism.  The results showed a “normalization” of brain wave activity including a decrease in hypermetabolism of the frontal lobe and an increase in activity in the occipital lobe. 
    The second study mentioned in the slide is that of Sheila Frick and Nancy Lawton-Shirley, both occupational therapists, from Hudson, Wisconsin.  They felt that changes brought about by AIT facilitated improvement in movement perception with people who experienced gravitational insecurity prior to training.  They also noticed positive changes in overall arousal, organization and social-emotional responses.  They used a case-study approach with two sets of identical twins. 
    The third study is also a case study conducted over a 6 month period of time in New Zealand.  This study involved 46 participants or varying diagnostic groupings.  It was conducted under the sponsorship of the Crippled Children Services in Tauranga.  The results of these case studies can be found on pages 95-111 of the Resources Guide 2005. 


The 28 studies posted on the Autism Research International website by Drs. Stephen Edelson and Bernard Rimland.  This analysis distinguishes the diagnostic groups, whether findings were in favor of AIT, or whether the study results were controversial and ambiguous and then whether the results were unclear and whether there were no effects.  None of the studies showed no effects.  Three studies indicated the studies had unclear results and two studies showed controversial/ambiguous or contradictory results.  Of the 28 studies, 23 showed positive results for AIT


  • A User’s Guide to the Brain, Perception, Attention & the Four Theatres of the Brain, by John J. Ratey, MD
  • The Mind and the Brain, Neuroplasticity & the Power of Mental Force, by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD & Sharon Begley, published by Regan Books
  • The Secret Life of the Brain by Richard Restak, MD published by Joseph Henry Press
  • The Human Brain, A Guided Tour, by Susan A. Greenfield, Published by Basic Books
  • Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter, Published by University of California Press
  • The Early Origins of Autism New research into the causes of this baffling disorder is focusing on genes that control the development of the brain by Patricia M. Rodier Scientific American, Feb 2000  

Reprinted by permission from Marcialyn (Marcy) McCarthy, M.A.  Michael R. McCarthy is a developmental psychologist and his wife Marcy McCarthy has a Masters degree in Special Education with an emphasis in early childhood. 

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