Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, in collaboration with co-leading authors at George Washington University and Yale, have demonstrated in a pilot study that a clinician-driven virtual learning platform, tailored to young adults on the autism spectrum, shows improved social competency. Findings published in Autism Research reveal that increases in socio-emotional and socio-cognitive abilities correlate with brain change. Results included increased activation in the brain’s socio-cognition hub with gains linked to improvement on an empathy measure.

The present findings are among the first to demonstrate neural changes that are associated with significant behavioral gains in young adults with high-functioning autism. Researchers were particularly intrigued by the significant relationships between behavioral and brain changes, as there is a lack of research in this area. Historically, most autism research has focused on early childhood with treatment results typically measured solely by observable and self-reported behaviors.

“Brain change is a big deal in adults with autism. Many people implicitly believe that brain changes are unlikely for adults with autism, which might affect how they interact with those adults. This study challenges that very notion and has profound implications in the way people would view, interact, and treat adults with autism,” said Daniel Yang, PhD, assistant research professor at the George Washington University Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute.

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Published on ScienceDaily March 28, 2018