Behavioral Therapy for Children With Autism Can Impact Brain Function, University of California, Santa Barbara Study
Published: Feb 15, 2013
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for before-and-after analysis, a team of researchers including a UC Santa Barbara graduate student discovered positive changes in brain activity in children with autism who received a particular type of behavioral therapy. Work completed at Yale University's Child Study Center used fMRI as the tool for measuring the impact of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) -- therapy pioneered at UCSB by Lynn Koegel, clinical director of the Koegel Autism Center -- on both lower- and higher-functioning children with autism receiving PRT for the first time. fMRI allows researchers to see what areas of the brain are active while processing certain stimuli -- in this case human motion. Comparing pre- and post-therapy data from the fMRI scans of their 5-year-old subjects, the researchers saw marked -- and remarkable -- changes in how the children were processing the stimuli. Findings from their study, "Neural Mechanisms of Improvements in Social Motivation After Pivotal Response Treatment," are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.