A new study shows that brain waves in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) differ from those in people without ASD. The findings show that ASD individuals exhibit fewer beta and alpha waves in certain regions of the brain as well as irregular patterns in the frontal lobe.
Beta brainwaves are higher frequency waves that dominate when we feel alert, attentive, and are intensely focused. Alpha waves are slower frequency waves that are predominant during a waking restful state.
For the study, researchers at the University of Malaysia Sarawak compared the brainwave patterns of ten individuals with ASD to those of ten typical individuals to see if they could identify any differences in brain waves among the participants with and without the disorder.
ASD is a group of neurological dysfunctions that result in challenges in thinking, talking, recognizing and expressing emotion, and social situations.
The researchers used a quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG), which measures electrical activity through 19 electrodes resting on the head during specific tasks. The instrument lets them see brainwaves that move at different frequencies, which allows them to develop a brain map showing more or less activity in different regions of the brain.
Overall, the researchers found that individuals with ASD have fewer beta waves throughout the brain than normal, indicating under-connectivity throughout the brain. Decreased beta waves are often associated with attention problems, learning disabilities and brain injuries.
The brain maps also revealed that ASD individuals had both excessively slow and fast waves in the frontal lobe. This might suggest faulty connections between the front and back regions of the brain.
Individuals with ASD also had reduced alpha waves in brain regions associated with senses and gross motor movement, which might explain why they could not mimic instructed tasks.
The new findings are consistent with other studies using different brain imaging tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging. The researchers note that by observing specific differences with QEEG, clinicians can develop individualized neurofeedback training plans for ASD patients.
Neurofeedback training involves measuring a person’s brainwaves from moment to moment while showing this information back to the patient. The person is then rewarded for effortfully changing his or her own brain activity to more appropriate patterns.
The researchers found that neurofeedback training based on a QEEG-guided protocol is more effective than treating a person based on symptoms.