Autism has been characterized by atypical task-related brain activation and functional connections, coinciding with deficits in sociocommunicative abilities. However, evidence of the brain's experience-dependent plasticity suggests that abnormal activity patterns may be reversed with treatment. In particular, neurofeedback training (NFT), an intervention based on operant conditioning resulting in self-regulation of brain electrical oscillations, has shown increasing promise in addressing abnormalities in brain function and behavior. We examined the effects of ≥ 20 h of sensorimotor mu-rhythm-based NFT in children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and a matched control group of typically developing children (ages 8-17). During a functional magnetic resonance imaging imitation and observation task, the ASD group showed increased activation in regions of the human mirror neuron system following the NFT, as part of a significant interaction between group (ASD vs. controls) and training (pre- vs. post-training). These changes were positively correlated with behavioral improvements in the ASD participants, indicating that mu-rhythm NFT may be beneficial to individuals with ASD.
Keywords: Mu-rhythm; functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); mirror neuron system; plasticity; sociocommunication.
© 2017 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.