A large number of brain imaging studies have been performed that have shown that the observation of actions done by others, as well as implementation of action by oneself, activates in typical humans a complex network of mirror neurons. Differences in the mirror neuron system of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have been identified and less activation occurs during action observation for these children than for those with typical development. This reflects deficiencies in the functioning of the observation / execution system within the mirror neuron system which may play a critical role in understanding and imitating the actions of others, the primary area of deficit for children with ASD. Evidence exists to suggest that performing action observation may facilitate motor activity and induce cortical plasticity.
Interactive visuo-motor therapy using the MeMoves® video has been discovered to facilitate neural functioning and increase social communicative functioning in a case study with ASD. MeMoves® is a commercially available video that was designed to increase focus and attention for all people. The video consists of children performing bilateral and cross-lateral movements that follow geometric shapes. The objectives of the current study were to identify if MeMoves® is an efficacious supplementary therapy model to improve mirror neuron functioning and ultimately imitative and social functioning for one five year-old case study child with ASD. Many families with children with ASD are looking for a fun way to interact with their child that is also therapeutically beneficial. MeMoves® has the potential to fill this need. The premise is imitation learning through watching & performing movements following children’s models. A subsequent study of clinical trials with a larger number of children with ASD will be implemented in the near future.
An initial Electroencephalogram (EEG) of the five-year old child with ASD was performed to determine mirror neuron system function prior to engaging in MeMoves®. The child demonstrated the atypical pattern of functioning that has been discovered in children with ASD during the pre-test period. The child and his family engaged in the MeMoves® video protocol 5 days a week for 5 minutes a day for 12 weeks in duration. The family reported having fun and doing the video movements together. A post-test EEG was performed following the therapy protocol to determine if increased mirror neuron functioning was evident. Additionally, behavioral outcomes were measured at week 1, week 6, and week 12 to assess the child’s ability to establish and maintain eye contact and imitate the clinician’s movements during speech-language therapy sessions.
Results indicated improved mirror neuron functioning and an increase in behavioral outcomes following the 12 week MeMoves® interactive visuo-motor therapy protocol.
This case study indicates that interactive visuo-motor therapy using the MeMoves® video may be an efficacious supplementary therapy protocol that is fun and engaging for children and their families to do at home together.