Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months

Date:
October 26, 2012
Source:
University of California - Davis Health System
Summary:
An intensive early intervention therapy that is effective for improving cognition and language skills among very young children with autism also normalizes their brain activity, decreases their autism symptoms and improves their social skills, a nationwide study has found. The researchers said the study is the first to demonstrate that an autism early intervention program can normalize brain activity.

An intensive early intervention therapy that is effective for improving cognition and language skills among very young children with autism also normalizes their brain activity, decreases their autism symptoms and improves their social skills, a nationwide study has found. The researchers said the study is the first to demonstrate that an autism early intervention program can normalize brain activity.

"We know that infant brains are quite malleable and previously demonstrated that this therapy capitalizes on the potential of learning that an infant brain has in order to limit autism's deleterious effects," said study author Sally Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.

"The findings on improved behavioral outcomes and the ability to normalize brain activity associated with social activities signify that there is tremendous potential for the brains of children with autism to develop and grow more normally," Rogers said.

Published online October 26 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the randomized, case-controlled, multi-centered study titled "Early behavioral intervention is associated with normalized brain activity in young children with autism," found that the children who received the intervention exhibited greater brain activation when viewing faces rather than objects, a response that was typical of the normal children in the study, and the opposite of the children with autism who received other intervention.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 children born today will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Hallmarks of the neurodevelopmental condition include persistent deficits in social communication and relatedness, and repetitive or restrictive patterns of interest that appear in early childhood and impair everyday functioning.

Named the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), the intervention method was developed by Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the research and advocacy organization Autism Speaks. The therapy fuses a play-based, developmental, relationship-based approach and the teaching methods of applied behavioral analysis.

"This may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function as well as positive changes in behavior," said Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which funded the study. "By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential biomarker that can guide treatment development."

For the present study, the researchers recruited 48 diverse male and female children diagnosed with autism between 18 and 30 months in Sacramento, Calif., and in Seattle, as well as typically developing case controls. The ratio of male-to-female participants was more than 3-to-1. Autism is five times more common among boys than girls.

Approximately half of the children with autism were randomly assigned to receive the ESDM intervention for over two years. The participants received ESDM therapy for 20 hours each week, and their parents also were trained to deliver the treatment, a core feature of the intervention. The other participants with autism received similar amounts of various community-based interventions as well as evaluations, referrals, resource manuals and other reading materials.

At the study's conclusion, the participants' brain activity was assessed using electroencephalograms (EEGs) that measured brain activation while viewing social stimuli -- faces -- and non-social stimuli -- toys. Earlier studies have found that typical infants and young children show increased brain activity when viewing social stimuli rather than objects, while children with autism show the opposite pattern.

Twice as many of the children who received the ESDM intervention showed greater brain activation when viewing faces rather than when viewing objects -- a demonstration of normalized brain activity. Eleven of the 15 children who received the ESDM intervention, 73 percent, showed more brain activation when viewing faces than toys. Similarly, 12 of the 17 typically developing children, or 71 percent, showed the same pattern. But the majority -- 64 percent -- of the recipients of the community intervention showed the opposite, "autistic" pattern, i.e., greater response to toys than faces. Only 5 percent showed the brain activation of typical children.

Further, the children receiving ESDM who had greater brain activity while viewing faces also had fewer social-pragmatic problems and improved social communication, including the ability to initiate interactions, make eye contact and imitate others, said MIND Institute researcher Rogers. Use of the ESDM intervention has been shown to improve cognition, language and daily living skills. A study published in 2009 found that ESDM recipients showed more than three times as much gain in IQ and language than the recipients of community interventions.

"This is the first case-controlled study of an intensive early intervention that demonstrates both improvement of social skills and normalized brain activity resulting from intensive early intervention therapy," said Dawson, the study's lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24-month-old children be screened for autism, it is vital that we have effective therapies available for young children as soon as they are diagnosed."

"For the first time," Dawson continued, "parents and practitioners have evidence that early intervention can alter the course of brain and behavioral development in young children. It is crucial that all children with autism have access to early intervention which can promote the most positive long-term outcomes."

Rogers, Dawson and Laurie A. Vismara, also a researcher with the MIND Institute, have authored two books on the intervention. One for professionals is titled "Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement" and one for parents titled "An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn."

The ESDM intervention is available in Sacramento through the MIND Institute clinic and in a number of locations throughout the U.S. and other nations. Training in delivering the ESDM method is provided through the MIND Institute and the University of Washington.

Other study authors include Emily J.H. Jones, Kaitlin Venema, Rachel Lowy, Susan Faja, Dana Kamara, Michale Murias, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, Milani Smith and Sara J. Webb, all of the University of Washington, and Kristen Merkle of Vanderbilt University.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and by a postdoctoral fellowship to Jones from Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Davis Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Geraldine Dawson, Emily J.H. Jones, Kristen Merkle, Kaitlin Venema, Rachel Lowy, Susan Faja, Dana Kamara, Michael Murias, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, Milani Smith, Sally J. Rogers, Sara J. Webb. Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2012; 51 (11): 1150 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.08.018

Cite This Page:

University of California - Davis Health System. "Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026125021.htm>.
University of California - Davis Health System. (2012, October 26). Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026125021.htm
University of California - Davis Health System. "Autism early intervention found to normalize brain activity in children as young as 18 months." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121026125021.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins