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Neural Mechanisms of Improvements in Social Motivation After Pivotal Response Treatment: Two Case Studies

Abstract

Pivotal response treatment (PRT) is an empirically validated behavioral treatment that has widespread positive effects on communication, behavior, and social skills in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For the first time, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to identify the neural correlates of successful response to PRT in two young children with ASD. Baseline measures of social communication, adaptive behavior, eye tracking and neural response to social stimuli were taken prior to treatment and after 4 months of PRT. Both children showed striking gains on behavioral measures and also showed increased activation to social stimuli in brain regions utilized by typically developing children. These results suggest that neural systems supporting social perception are malleable through implementation of PRT.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this study came from the Harris Professorship at the Yale Child Study Center given to Kevin Archer Pelphrey, Allied World and NIMH grant K23MH086785.

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Correspondence to Avery C. Voos.

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Voos, A.C., Pelphrey, K.A., Tirrell, J. et al. Neural Mechanisms of Improvements in Social Motivation After Pivotal Response Treatment: Two Case Studies. J Autism Dev Disord 43, 1–10 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1683-9

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Keywords

  • Pivotal response treatment
  • fMRI
  • Autism
  • Intervention
  • Outcome