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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    • "There were several case, pilot and group studies (Sichel et al., 1995; Jarusiewicz, 2002) followed by controlled group studies (Coben and Padolsky, 2007; Kouijzer et al., 2009a,b; Coben and Myers, 2010). More detailed accounts summarizing behavioral, cognitive, and neurophysiological data can be found in current reviews (Thompson et al., 2010a,b; Coben, 2013; Linden and Gunkelman, 2013). Among controlled studies should be specifically mentioned quantitative EEG (qEEG) and connectivity analysis guided studies conducted by Coben and his associate (Coben and Padolsky, 2007; Coben and Myers, 2010; Coben et al., 2010; Coben, 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Neurofeedback is a mode of treatment that is potentially useful for improving self-regulation skills in persons with autism spectrum disorder. We proposed that operant conditioning of EEG in neurofeedback mode can be accompanied by changes in the relative power of EEG bands. However, the details on the change of the relative power of EEG bands during neurofeedback training course in autism are not yet well explored. In this study, we analyzed the EEG recordings of children diagnosed with autism and enrolled in a prefrontal neurofeedback treatment course. The protocol used in this training was aimed at increasing the ability to focus attention, and the procedure represented the wide band EEG amplitude suppression training along with upregulation of the relative power of gamma activity. Quantitative EEG analysis was completed for each session of neurofeedback using wavelet transform to determine the relative power of gamma and theta/beta ratio, and further to detect the statistical changes within and between sessions. We found a linear decrease of theta/beta ratio and a liner increase of relative power of gamma activity over 18 weekly sessions of neurofeedback in 18 high functioning children with autism. The study indicates that neurofeedback is an effective method for altering EEG characteristics associated with the autism spectrum disorder. Also, it provides information about specific changes of EEG activities and details the correlation between changes of EEG and neurofeedback indexes during the course of neurofeedback. This pilot study contributes to the development of more effective approaches to EEG data analysis during prefrontal neurofeedback training in autism. Key word: Electroencephalography, Neurofeedback, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Gamma activity, EEG bands’ ratios
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Frontiers in Neuroengineering
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