Measuring the Plasticity of Social Approach: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of the PEERS Intervention on EEG Asymmetry in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Amy V. Van Hecke, Marquette University
Sheryl Jayne Stevens, Marquette University
Audrey M. Carson, Marquette University
Jeffrey S. Karst, Marquette University
Bridget Dolan, Marquette University
Kirsten A. Schohl, Marquette University
Ryan J. McKindles, Marquette University
Rheanna Remmel, Marquette University
Scott Brockman, Marquette University

Accepted version. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Vol 45, No. 2 (February 2015): pg. 316-335. DOI. © Springer Science+Business Media New York. Used with permission.


This study examined whether the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS: Social skills for teenagers with developmental and autism spectrum disorders: The PEERS treatment manual, Routledge, New York, 2010a) affected neural function, via EEG asymmetry, in a randomized controlled trial of adolescents with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and a group of typically developing adolescents. Adolescents with ASD in PEERS shifted from right-hemisphere gamma-band EEG asymmetry before PEERS to left-hemisphere EEG asymmetry after PEERS, versus a waitlist ASD group. Left-hemisphere EEG asymmetry was associated with more social contacts and knowledge, and fewer symptoms of autism. Adolescents with ASD in PEERS no longer differed from typically developing adolescents in left-dominant EEG asymmetry at post-test. These findings are discussed via the Modifier Model of Autism (Mundy et al. in Res Pract Persons Severe Disabl 32(2):124, 2007), with emphasis on remediating isolation/withdrawal in ASD.