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ABA Intervention and Brain Plasticity

ABA Intervention and Brain Plasticity

Project Title: Effects of Intensive Behavioral Intervention on Brain Plasticity in Children with Autism
Investigator: Javier Virués-Ortega
: St.Amant Research Centre, University of Manitoba Department of Psychology
Research Sponsor
: Manitoba Medical Services Foundation, The Winnipeg Foundation, University of Manitoba


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a well-established technique that uses strong magnetic fields to make pictures of the inside of the human body non-invasively. Measuring brain activity while the subject performs a simple task is known as functional MRI, or fMRI.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) intervention is the most evidence-supported treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Although ABA can produce dramatic improvements in behaviour, little is known about how the developing brain changes as a consequence of treatment.


Our goal is to identify brain activity patterns that change during learning, both in children with ASDs and also in typically-developing children (control group). In this study will use fMRI to measure activity patterns:

A. before and after an important skill (imitation) is taught; and
B. before and after a neutral item has been established as an effective reward.

Significance of Study

This approach may help us understand how Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) intervention produces beneficial effects, which in turn could help to predict long-term outcomes of ABA intervention, and may help to indicate which components of the intervention will be most beneficial for individual children.

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