Can a brain “workout” help children with autism improve sociability? A San Diego State University psychology research professor studying brain connectivity associated with autism has found that brain circuits supporting social functioning are less mature and efficient in children with autism. She says her findings show treatments such as neurofeedback-based training could build the brain just like you build muscles.
Dr. Inna Fisherman used sophisticated brain imaging methods to map brain networks that are thought to support social functioning–human social behavior and the understanding of others. With the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Fisherman compared adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and age-matched peers who do not have the disorder to find differences in the strength and extent of these brain connections.
Her findings, published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, show that in the adolescents with autism group two networks were “talking” to each other to a greater extent than those in the peer group. Additionally, the “cross-talk” between the networks was strongly linked to the amount of autistic symptoms observed.
“Identifying these patterns is a first step toward developing effective treatments, such as neurofeedback-based training, that may alleviate some of the autistic symptoms by ‘training’ the affected brain circuits that are involved in social processing, just like one trains one’s muscles,” Fishman said in an SDSU report.
According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That statistic is based on health and education records, and reflects a roughly 30 percent increase over the 2012 measure.
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