Two electrophysiological studies tested the hypothesis that operant conditioning of mu rhythms via neurofeedback training can renormalize mu suppression, an index of mirror neuron activity, and improve behavior in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In Study 1, eight high-functioning ASD participants were assigned to placebo or experimental groups before 10 weeks of training of the mu frequency band (8–13 Hz). Following training, experimental participants showed decreased mu power and coherence, increased sustained attention ability, and improved scores on subscales of the ATEC compared to the placebo group. Both groups showed improvement in imitation ability. In Study 2, 19 high-functioning ASD children underwent a similar procedure with verified diagnoses, a modified double-blind protocol, and training of the high mu band (10–13 Hz). The results showed decreases in amplitude but increases in phase coherence in mu rhythms and normalization of mu rhythm suppression in experimental participants compared to placebo. Furthermore, like Study 1, participants showed improvements in sustained attention and in ATEC scores but no improvements in imitation following training. This suggests that training of the mu rhythm can be effective in producing changes in EEG and behavior in high-functioning ASD children, but does not affect imitation behavior per se.
Pineda, Jaime & Brang, David & Hecht, Erin & Edwards, L. & Carey, Scott & Bacon, M. & Futagaki, C. & Suk, D. & Tom, J. & Birnbaum, C. & Rork, A.. (2008). Positive behavioral and electrophysiological changes following neurofeedback training in children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2. 557-581. 10.1016/j.rasd.2007.12.003.