Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Can Neurofeedback Help with ASD?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name for what were previously known as four separate disorders including autistic disorder (autism) and Asperger’s disorder. ASD is a complex condition with a complex diagnosis process involving a lot of interpretation and judgment. ASD often co-exists with other diagnoses (called comorbidity by doctors). There is a striking overlap between AD/HD and ASD symptoms, which causes confusion among families, as well as professionals. When a child is distracted and moves a lot at school, or has difficulties in keeping focused during a conversation, people often think of AD/HD. However, these symptoms might be confused with ASD symptoms. The first case study applying Neurofeedback to autism was in 1994, 20 years after it was first seen to reduce hyperactivity and led to the significant body of evidence for Neurofeedback for ADHD.
Although the evidence for ASD is still building compared with ADHD, we anticipate that before too long, Neurofeedback will be embraced as the treatment of choice for ASD.
Research Autism has an excellent summary of Neurofeedback and an extensive summary of peer-reviewed studies on Neurofeedback for ASD. Research Autism told us that it wants to conduct a formal review of Neurofeedback and will do so when it has the time.
In this randomized controlled study from 2010, parents of the NF group reported significant improvements in reciprocal social interactions and communication skills. EEG analysis showed 60% of NF group reduced Theta waves in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) known to be involved in social & executive dysfunctions in autism:
- Kouijzer, M. E., van Schie, H. T., de Moor, J. M., Gerrits, B. J., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2010). Neurofeedback treatment of autism. Preliminary findings in behavioral, cognitive, and neurophysiological functioning.Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(3), 386-399. In this 2007 study the Neurofeedback group had an 89% success rate improving ASD symptoms, 40% reduction in core ASD symptomology (ATEC scores) and 76% reduction in hyper-connectivity:
- Coben, R., & Padolsky, I. (2007). Assessment-guided neurofeedback for autistic spectrum disorder.Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(1), 5-23. A further 2009 study showed that the effects lasted beyond 12 months:
- Kouijzer, M. E., de Moor, J. M., Gerrits, B. J., Buitelaar, J. K., & van Schie, H. T. (2009). Long-term effects of neurofeedback treatment in autism.Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 3(2), 496-501.