Technology & Science

Neurofeedback may decrease autism symptoms: study

Neurofeedback may help improve brain connectivity problems that afflict autistic patients, allowing them to become more functional, finds a new study.

Neurofeedback may help improve brain connectivity problems that afflict autistic patients, allowing them to become more functional, a new study suggests.

Neurofeedback is a way of changing the brain's functioning through feedback about brain wave activity. It can help regulate the transmission of messages in different parts of the brain.

Autistic patients have abnormal neural connectivity pathways, with areas of very high connectivity and areas of very poor connectivity, according to the study. These have been identified through neuroimaging, such as MRI and positron emission tomography, which show that certain areas of the brain "converse" too much while others fail to make very many connections at all.

In addition to connectivity issues, children with autism often also have a significant reduction in total grey matter volume in the brain and less white matter in areas like the cerebellum. These brain changes mean many have problems with eye gaze, speech, facial expressions or social gestures.

Following a determination of an autistic child's connectivity problems, researchers performed neurofeedback experiments. They attached electrodes at various sites to redirect electrical signals in the brain. This treatment led to a 40 per cent decrease in autistic symptoms, an improvement in neuropsychological functions and a reduction in hyperconnectivity.

"Recent research has shown that autistic disorders have as their basis disturbances of neural connectivity," write the authors. "Neurofeedback seems capable of remediating such disturbances."
 
The study is published in the winter issue of the journal Biofeedback.