Functional Neuroanatomy and the Rationale for Using EEG Biofeedback for Clients with Asperger’s Syndrome

ADD Centre, Mississauga, ON L4Z 1V9, Canada.
Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (Impact Factor: 1.13). 08/2009; 35(1):39-61. DOI: 10.1007/s10484-009-9095-0
Source: PubMed


This paper reviews the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome (AS), a disorder along the autism continuum, and highlights research findings with an emphasis on brain differences. Existing theories concerning AS are described, including theory of mind (Hill and Frith in Phil Trans Royal Soc Lond, Bull 358:281-289, 2003), mirror neuron system (Ramachandran and Oberman in Sci Am 295(5):62-69, 2006), and Porges' (Ann N Y Acad Sci 1008:31-47, 2003, The neurobiology of autism, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2004) polyvagal theory. (A second paper, Outcomes using EEG Biofeedback Training in Clients with Asperger's Syndrome, summarizes clinical outcomes obtained with more than 150 clients.) Patterns seen with QEEG assessment are then presented. Single channel assessment at the vertex (CZ) reveals patterns similar to those found in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Using 19-channel data, significant differences (z-scores > 2) were found in the amplitude of both slow waves (excess theta and/or alpha) and fast waves (beta) at various locations. Differences from the norm were most often found in mirror neuron areas (frontal, temporal and temporal-parietal). There were also differences in coherence patterns, as compared to a normative database (Neuroguide). Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography Analysis (Pascual-Marqui et al. in Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 24C:91-95, 2002) suggested the source of the abnormal activity was most often the anterior cingulate. Other areas involved included the amygdala, uncus, insula, hippocampal gyrus, parahippocampal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, and the orbito-frontal and/or ventromedial areas of the prefrontal cortex. Correspondence between symptoms and the functions of the areas found to have abnormalities is evident and those observations are used to develop a rationale for using EEG biofeedback, called neurofeedback (NFB), intervention. NFB training is targeted to improve symptoms that include difficulty reading and mirroring emotions, poor attention to the outside world, poor self-regulation skills, and anxiety. Porges' polyvagal theory is used to emphasize the need to integrate NFB with biofeedback (BFB), particularly heart rate variability training. We term this emerging understanding the Systems Theory of Neural Synergy. The name underscores the fact that NFB and BFB influence dynamic circuits and emphasizes that, no matter where we enter the nervous system with an intervention, it will seek its own new balance and equilibrium.

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    • "Several studies have reported that children with ASD are able to learn to increase power in the mu frequency band in order to control an action in a video game, similar to what those in a TD group can do (Pineda et al. 2008; Coben et al. 2010; Thompson et al. 2010; Pineda et al. 2014). To our knowledge the current study is the first time that a group of children with ASD were trained to both increase as well as decrease mu rhythm depending on the specific context within the game. "
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback training (NFT) approaches were investigated to improve behavior, cognition and emotion regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Thirteen children with ASD completed pre-/post-assessments and 16 NFT-sessions. The NFT was based on a game that encouraged social interactions and provided feedback based on imitation and emotional responsiveness. Bidirectional training of EEG mu suppression and enhancement (8-12 Hz over somatosensory cortex) was compared to the standard method of enhancing mu. Children learned to control mu rhythm with both methods and showed improvements in (1) electrophysiology: increased mu suppression, (2) emotional responsiveness: improved emotion recognition and spontaneous imitation, and (3) behavior: significantly better behavior in every-day life. Thus, these NFT paradigms improve aspects of behavior necessary for successful social interactions.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 07/2015; 45(12). DOI:10.1007/s10803-015-2523-5 · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    • "While the precise mechanisms of how using neurofeedback can induce changes in the brain are unclear, the evidence suggests they capitalize on the innate plasticity of the brain to produce neural, functional, and ultimately behavioral changes. Furthermore, the use of QEEG (Cantor and Chabot, 2009; Coben and Myers, 2010; Thompson et al., 2010a,b) combined with specific and individualized protocols (e.g., amplitude and coherence training) can help fit the training to the heterogeneity of autistic symptomatology. "
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    ABSTRACT: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an increasingly prevalent condition with core deficits in the social domain. Understanding its neuroetiology is critical to providing insights into the relationship between neuroanatomy, physiology and social behaviors, including imitation learning, language, empathy, theory of mind, and even self-awareness. Equally important is the need to find ways to arrest its increasing prevalence and to ameliorate its symptoms. In this review, we highlight neurofeedback studies as viable treatment options for high-functioning as well as low-functioning children with ASD. Lower-functioning groups have the greatest need for diagnosis and treatment, the greatest barrier to communication, and may experience the greatest benefit if a treatment can improve function or prevent progression of the disorder at an early stage. Therefore, we focus on neurofeedback interventions combined with other kinds of behavioral conditioning to induce neuroplastic changes that can address the full spectrum of the autism phenotype.
    Frontiers in Neuroengineering 08/2014; 7:29. DOI:10.3389/fneng.2014.00029
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    • "That approach improves the likelihood that the intervention will be effective by first identifying activity at specific electrode sites that are outside the norm, i.e., comparing the data to already existing normative databases, and then targeting the sites of greatest difference for NFT (Cantor and Chabot, 2009; Coben and Myers, 2010; Thompson et al., 2010). Recent QEEG guided studies have reported behavioral improvements on a number of measures and it has been used to achieve behavioral and neuroregulatory improvements, primarily in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but also in those with ASD (Coben and Myers, 2010; Thompson et al., 2010). More specifically, assessment guided NFT was used to reduce hyperconnectivity in posterior-frontal to anterior-temporal regions (Coben and Padolsky, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show deficits in social and communicative skills, including imitation, empathy, and shared attention, as well as restricted interests and repetitive patterns of behaviors. Evidence for and against the idea that dysfunctions in the mirror neuron system are involved in imitation and could be one underlying cause for ASD is discussed in this review. Neurofeedback interventions have reduced symptoms in children with ASD by self-regulation of brain rhythms. However, cortical deficiencies are not the only cause of these symptoms. Peripheral physiological activity, such as the heart rate and its variability, is closely linked to neurophysiological signals and associated with social engagement. Therefore, a combined approach targeting the interplay between brain, body, and behavior could be more effective. Brain-computer interface applications for combined neurofeedback and biofeedback treatment for children with ASD are currently nonexistent. To facilitate their use, we have designed an innovative game that includes social interactions and provides neural- and body-based feedback that corresponds directly to the underlying significance of the trained signals as well as to the behavior that is reinforced.
    Frontiers in Neuroengineering 07/2014; 7:21. DOI:10.3389/fneng.2014.00021
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