Early behavioral intervention, brain plasticity, and the prevention of autism spectrum disorder

Dev Psychopathol. Summer 2008;20(3):775-803. doi: 10.1017/S0954579408000370.


Advances in the fields of cognitive and affective developmental neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, neurobiology, genetics, and applied behavior analysis have contributed to a more optimistic outcome for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These advances have led to new methods for early detection and more effective treatments. For the first time, prevention of ASD is plausible. Prevention will entail detecting infants at risk before the full syndrome is present and implementing treatments designed to alter the course of early behavioral and brain development. This article describes a developmental model of risk, risk processes, symptom emergence, and adaptation in ASD that offers a framework for understanding early brain plasticity in ASD and its role in prevention of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Autistic Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Early Intervention, Educational*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Motivation
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment