21 Dec Autism: Prefrontal Synthesis Training Can Enhance Language Acquisition
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Andrey Vyshedskiy PhD
Boston University, Boston
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background of ImagiRation?
Response: ImagiRation is a Boston-based startup with links to MIT, Harvard, and Boston University. ImagiRation has developed a highly innovative adaptive language therapy application for children with autism, Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA).
MedicalResearch.com: How is the Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism program delivered?
Response: MITA language therapy is administered by parents at home. MITA application works on all smartphones and tablet devices and is designed for children ages 2 to 12 years.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In a 3-year clinical study of 6,454 children with autism, children who engaged with MITA showed 2.2-fold greater language improvement than children with similar initial evaluations. This difference was statistically significant (p<0.0001). The manuscript describing the study has been published in the journal Healthcare: https://www.mdpi.com/2227-9032/8/4/566
MedicalResearch.com: How might the Prefrontal Synthesis ability have been acquired 70,000 years ago and what were the consequences?
Response: The study results support the Prefrontal Synthesis hypothesis. Prefrontal Synthesis is defined as the ability to juxtapose mental visuospatial objects at will. The hypothesis posits that the neurological mechanism for Prefrontal Synthesis was acquired by humans 70,000 years ago and completed the conversion of an articulate communication system (that was acquired 600,000 years ago) to modern language. Acquisition of full human language and Prefrontal Synthesis resulted in the sudden explosion of composite figurative arts, different types of tools including bone needles with an eye, construction of dwellings, and elaborate burials signifying the presence of religious beliefs. This abrupt jump to human modernity 70,000 years ago was called the “Cognitive Revolution” by Yuval Hariri.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The evolutionary dualism of language, with articulate speech and the visuospatial combinatorial Prefrontal Synthesis emerging via separate neurological mechanisms, suggests that language training in atypically developing children can also be conducted along the two paths simultaneously. In fact, many techniques used by therapists are already aimed at improving Prefrontal Synthesis: combining adjectives, location/orientation, color, and size with nouns; following directions with increasing complexity; building the multiple features/clauses in the sentence; visual-visual and auditory-visual conditional discrimination; development of multi-cue responsivity; and reduction of stimulus overselectivity.
However, these Prefrontal Synthesis exercises are usually just a small part of the therapy that mainly focuses on a child’s speech and vocabulary. Due to shorter neurological connections between neurons encoding words and their visual representations, vocabulary is easier to train. Further encouraging the focus on vocabulary training, it is highly appreciated by parents and the success of an intervention is commonly measured by tests that rely exclusively on a child’s vocabulary. The MITA study underscores the importance of Prefrontal Synthesis training and should pivot conventional language therapy toward greater attention to Prefrontal Synthesis exercises.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: The major strength of this study is the large number of long-term participants. This is the longest-running and the largest study of an early intervention tool for children with ASD. The most obvious limitation is that this study observational design cannot definitively prove causality since not all confounders can be adjusted appropriately. MITA Prefrontal Synthesis intervention warrants further investigation in a randomized controlled study.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: The significant improvement of language observed in the current study brings hope to many families and inspires us to continue developing Prefrontal Synthesis exercises and to translate MITA to multiple languages.
This study was self-funded by developers of MITA under the auspices of ImagiRation LLC.
- Vyshedskiy, A.; Khokhlovich, E.; Dunn, R.; Faisman, A.; Elgart, J.; Lokshina, L.; Gankin, Y.; Ostrovsky, S.; deTorres, L.; Edelson, S.M.; Ilyinskii, P.O. Novel Prefrontal Synthesis Intervention Improves Language in Children with Autism. Healthcare 2020, 8, 566.
2. Novel linguistic evaluation of prefrontal synthesis (LEPS) test measures prefrontal synthesis acquisition in neurotypical children and predicts high-functioning versus low-functioning class assignment in individuals with autism.
Vyshedskiy A, Radi K, DuBois MC, Mugford E, Maslova V, Braverman J, Piryatinsky I.Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2020 May 18:1-16. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2020.1758700. Online ahead of print.PMID: 32420749
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