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Research Update: Early Deprivation and Brain Development

A new article has been published which adds more to that we know about deprivation on development of the mind, body and brain.

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Millions of children worldwide live in nonfamilial institutions. We studied impact on adult brain structure of a particularly severe but time-limited form of institutional deprivation in early life experienced by children who were subsequently adopted into nurturing families. Institutional deprivation was associated with lower total brain volume in a dose-dependent way. Regionally specific effects were seen in medial prefrontal, inferior frontal, and inferior temporal areas. Deprivation-related alterations in total brain volume were associated with lower intelligence quotient and more attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms; alterations in temporal volume seemed compensatory, as they were associated with fewer attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. We provide evidence that early childhood deprivation is related to alterations in adult brain structure, despite environmental enrichment in intervening years.

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Download a copy [open access] Early childhood deprivation is associated with alterations in adult brain structure despite subsequent environmental enrichment

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Enriched Environments as a Potential Treatment for Developmental Disorders: A Critical Assessment

The beneficial effects of enriched environments have been established through a long history of research. Enrichment of the living conditions of captive animals in the form of larger cages, sensory stimulating objects, and opportunities for social interaction and physical exercise, has been shown to reduce emotional reactivity, ameliorate abnormal behaviors, and enhance cognitive functioning. Recently, environmental enrichment research has been extended to humans, in part due to growing interest in its potential therapeutic benefits for children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). This paper reviews the history of enriched environment research and the use of enriched environments as a developmental intervention in studies of both NDD animal models and children. We argue that while environmental enrichment may sometimes benefit children with NDDs, several methodological factors need to be more closely considered before the efficacy of this approach can be adequately evaluated, including: (i) operationally defining and standardizing enriched environment treatments across studies; (ii) use of control groups and better control over potentially confounding variables; and (iii) a comprehensive theoretical framework capable of predicting when and how environmental enrichment will alter the trajectory of NDDs.

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Early Adverse Experiences and the Developing Brain

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Sensory Overload, Poor Habituation and A Brain that is Constantly Surprised

This article by science mag uses the analogy of predictive coding to explore how a mismatch between what the brain predicts might happen with what actually happens can cause the brain to be in a constant state of surprise. It attempts to explain some of the core features of Autism, Sensory Integration differences, poor habituation, focus on detail rather than the big picture and difficulties with social interaction…

“In Ayaya’s telling, her autism involves a host of perceptual disconnects. For example, she feels in exquisite detail all the sensations that typical people readily identify as hunger, but she can’t piece them together. “It’s very hard for me to conclude I’m hungry,” she says. “I feel irritated, or I feel sad, or I feel something [is] wrong. This information is separated, not connected.” It takes her so long to realize she is hungry that she often feels faint and gets something to eat only after someone suggests it to her.”  Read more here…

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Walking into the New Year

As we start the new year, with lots of hopes for a fresh start, often its the smallest most simple and achievable changes that work best. 

Amy Fleming talks to neuroscientist Shane O’Mara who believes that plenty of regular walking unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else. He explains why you should exchange your gym kit for a pair of comfy shoes and get strolling

“Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world,” says O’Mara. Read more here 

active dog walking enjoyment fun


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Research Update: Sensory Integration and Functional Reaching in Children With Rett Syndrome/Rett-Related Disorders

In this preliminary study Drobnyk et al (2019) suggest that Ayres’ Sensory Integration may be a playful and fun way to help improve hand coordination in children with Rett Syndrome. Difficulty with hand movements — specifically from thinking about what to do and then doing it, is a difficulty often seen in children with Rett Syndrome. The authors considered it important to find and research possible therapeutic interventions to address this difficulty.

“The loss of functional hand skills is a primary characteristic of Rett syndrome. Stereotypies, dyspraxia, and other sensory processing issues severely limit the individual’s ability to reach toward and sustain grasp on objects. This loss of functional reach and grasp severely limits their ability to participate in self-help, play, and school-related activities.” 

The authors wondered if Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy might be such a therapy.  

“There are no studies that specifically examine the effects of ASI therapy on motor planning/praxis, functional reaching, or hand use of individuals with RTT. There is preliminary evidence that this type of therapy may benefit children with sensory processing issues who have other diagnoses…

…We proposed that Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI) treatment would improve sensory processing and motor planning, which would lay the sensory-motor groundwork for improving grasp of objects, an important first step in developing functional hand use.””

The research study findings were small, 

“This study provides preliminary data suggesting that ASI may have small positive effects on the rate of grasping in children with RTT and warrants further study before recommending it in routine practice,” the researchers stated.

However, interestingly they also found the following, and hope to publish these findings also.

“All our study participants exhibited neurological signs involving altered muscle tone, weakness, and balance that contributed to deficits in postural control, mobility, and hand function. Although we observed steady improvements in postural stability/control, balance, and mobility in all participants from the beginning of the intervention period to the end of the post-intervention period, tracking these outcomes was not an aim of this study. We did, however, document these promising observations and we will examine them in a future qualitative study.”

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ICEASI Education Standards Approved.

We spent today answering questions today online, via text and What’s App – all asking the same questions about Certification in Ayres’ SI, and what programmes are recommended. 

Hoping this impartial recently published document developed after much consultation and with consensus from many organisations teaching ASI is helpful.

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Coming soon the ICEASI website

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ICEASI feedback