Teens with autism show ‘similar brain activity’ to neurotypical teens after behavioral therapy

PEERS classes teach social skills via lessons, role-play demonstrations and behavioral rehearsal exercises. Image credit: UCLA

There is a large amount of evidence that behavioral interventions can change behavior in autism. Most interventions focus on social behaviors with the goal of increasing social communication (such as eye contact, initiating social interactions, being responsive to social behaviors from others, following another person’s eye gaze, etc).

The basic question is: can brain activity change from behavioral therapies alone?

The authors used an evidence-based intervention called PEERS, which is designed to help teenagers with autism make and keep friends. This intervention involves weekly 90-minute meetings for 14 weeks, and includes both parent and child groups.

[P]eople who have more left hemisphere activity than right tend to be higher in approach motivation and positive emotions. On the other hand, people with more right hemisphere activity than left tend to have more negative emotions and withdrawal.

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The researchers found that teens who received PEERS showed a significant decrease in right hemisphere activity, and an increase in left hemisphere activity. Teens with autism who did not complete the intervention did not have this brain activity change. Also, teens with autism who received PEERS had similar brain activity to neurotypical teens after receiving the intervention.

Overall, these results suggest that teens with autism who received the intervention had significant changes in brain activity, that those changes made the intervention group look more like the neurotypical group.

Read full, original post: Can Intervention Change the Brain in Autism?

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