Monday, April 24, 2006

Neurofeedback in Autism

After complaining bitterly about a bad article in last week, today I'm happy to post a link to another New Scientist story, which discusses a line of very worthwhile research on "brain training" in autism:
Brain training can change autistic behaviour

NEUROFEEDBACK practice may be able to alleviate some of the symptoms of autism, according to a pilot study on eight children with the disorder.

The technique involves hooking people up to electrodes and getting them to try and control their brain waves. In people with autism, the "mu" wave is thought to be dysfunctional. Since this wave is associated with "mirror neurons" - the brain cells that underpin empathy and understanding of others - Jaime Pineda at the University of California, San Diego, wondered if controlling it through neurofeedback could exercise faulty mirror neurons and improve their function.

He attached sensors to the necks and heads of eight children with autism and had them watch a video game of a racing car going round a track. For all of the children, sitting still and concentrating kept the car travelling around the track, but five of them were also able to harness their mu waves and use them to adjust the car's speed.

After 30 sessions over 10 weeks, Pineda found that the five children's mu brainwaves had changed and they performed better on tasks involving imitation, typically difficult for people with autism. Pineda presented his work at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in San Francisco last week.

"This seems to indicate the children improve," Pineda says. How long the effects will last, though, is unknown.

From issue 2548 of New Scientist magazine, 21 April 2006, page 17
Although preliminary, the work of Jaime Pineda and his colleagues is a promising application of heretofore trendoid basic science research on "mirror neurons". It makes use of the mu wave in the EEG. Their work has shown that:
suppression of EEG oscillations in the mu frequency (8-13Hz) band over prefrontal cortex is correlated with mirror neuron activity. [They] study this mu wave suppression in a variety of populations to determine how a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may contribute to the pathology in autism, addiction, and other disorders, including a lack of theory of mind.
Venture capitalists!! Why aren't you more forthcoming with financial support for research like that (and research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that allow paralyzed individuals to communicate)?? Why are you supporting only neuromarketing research on "mirror neurons"? Oh never mind, we already know the answer to that question.

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At July 17, 2008 10:27 AM, Blogger CE said...

I have an 11 year old daughter with attachment problems and Aspergers. I want to put her in Neurofeedback training in San Diego. Can you recommend a person or facility to help her specifically with these issues?

At July 17, 2008 11:50 AM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

You might want to see if she's eligible to participate in this research study funded by Autism Speaks:

Neurofeedback Training Elicits Behavioral Improvements in Individuals with ASD.

You can find more information, including Dr. Pineda's contact information, at the link above.

At May 22, 2009 5:50 AM, Anonymous Agnese said...

Hi! I'm an italian student! I'm working for my TESI about Autism and neuroplasticity! Could you help me with same usefull links!?!?thank you!

At November 30, 2009 11:12 PM, Anonymous Buddha said...

Hi Agnese & CE

I wrote a page on neuroplasticity that you can see here. provides a directory of practitioners for Neurofeedback training.



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