Journal of Autism

Journal of Autism

ISSN 2054-992X
Original Research

Changing Lifestyle Improves Executive Functions and Associated Neurophysiological Activity in Children with Autism

Agnes S. Chan1-3* and Sophia L. Sze1,2

*Correspondence: Agnes S. Chan

1. Neuropsychology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Author Affiliations

2. Chanwuyi Research Center for Neuropsychological Well-Being, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR, China.

3. Henan Songshan Research Institute for Chanwuyi, Henan 452470, China.


Background: People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are commonly found to have executive dysfunctions that are associated with aberrant activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Previous empirical studies found that changing the lifestyle of a group of children with ASD according to a Chinese Chan-based medical principle for one month enhanced their executive functions and related neural activity patterns. The present study aimed to explore the effects of this lifestyle change at a longer term (i.e., six months).

Methods: Thirty children with ASD participated in this study with half in the experimental (six-month lifestyle change) and the other half in the control (no change) group. Each child was assessed on his/her executive functions, behavioral problems based on parental ratings, and event-related electroencephalographic (EEG) activity during an executive control task before and after six months.

Results: A pre-post comparison demonstrated significantly improved inhibitory control, mental flexibility, and planning abilities in the experimental group, which coincided with improved parental ratings of their daily behavior problems. Yet, the control group did not show such improvements. The sLORETA analysis results also revealed significantly increased activity across the PFC and ACC regions, particularly in the right hemisphere, during an inhibitory control task in the experimental group, while the control group did not show any significant alteration in the neural system.

Conclusions: The findings supported a positive effect of the Chan-based lifestyle changes in children with ASD for improving their executive function.

Keywords: Autism, executive function, lifestyle intervention, prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, electroencephalogram

ISSN 2054-992X
Volume 7
Abstract Download