How It Works

The Science

The brain has the incredible ability to adapt, heal, and grow.

Our unique sensory enrichment therapy unlocks these abilities and prompts the process of brain plasticity–utilizing the power of neurogenesis and dendritic arborization.

Neurogenesis:
[neu·ro·gen·e·sis]
• the process of generating new nerve cells.

Dendritic arborization: 
[den-drit-ik ahr-ber-uh-zey-shuhn]
• the process of “growing” an existing nerve cell (increasing its number of dendrites) resulting in an expanded capacity to communicate with other nerve cells.

Brain Plasticity for Autism

With more connections your brain is a lot stronger and able to do a lot more

What we do know…

Through the processes of neurogenesis and dendritic arborization, the brain can change neural pathways and synapses at any stage of life. The brain’s ability to make these changes is called brain plasticity.

With stronger connections and more brand new nerve cells, the brain is able to receive and interpret more signals more accurately. It can do more, more quickly, more easily. Since the brain controls just about every aspect of life, as its capabilities expand, so will your child’s. He will become increasingly confident as his/her life becomes gradually easier and more comfortable and as he feels his skills expand.

It is common for people doing Mendability to see increases in self-awareness, communication and social skills, and a decrease in anxiety, sleep and feeding problems.

Prompting natural healing

Sensory Enrichment
and the Brain

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine believe that brain plasticity can be triggered by sensory enrichment–through olfactory, visual, tactile, motor systems, etc.

Sensory enrichment therapy was influenced by the breakthrough work of Prof. Mark Rosenzweig, University of California, Berkeley, who showed that early sensory stimulation increases the surface of the cortex, the number of dendrites and the volume of neurotransmitters in rats.

Prof. Rosenzweig was one of the first scientists to demonstrate neuroplasticity, the notion that experiences can produce changes in the function and structural wiring of the brain.

Further studies by neurobiologists now show that the social and cognitive abilities of an individual depend heavily on the levels of neurotransmitters.

Moreover, research now shows that sensory stimulation can impact the levels of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

This work is an example of the kind of impact simple sensory activities can have on brain function.

Other researchers who have influenced sensory enrichment and shown the impact of simple sensory activities include: Professor Michael Meaney at McGill University on the link between gentle touch, serotonin and anxiety; and the work of Professor Jon Horvitz, currently at City College New York, who paired visual experiences, dopamine and mood.

Inspiring quotes from science journals

Researchers have shown that cells destined to become neurons travel from the ventricles to the olfactory bulbs, a pair of structures that receives input from odor-sensing cells in the nose.

– Fred H. Gage, Scientific American Sep 2003 p. 47
The combination of odor and tactile stimulation, which allows an olfactory preference to be formed, induces a prolonged increase in DA [dopamine] which peaks at about 400% of baseline.

– Coopersmith, R.; Weihmuller, F.B. Kirstein, C.L.; Marshall, J.F.; Leon, M. “Extracellular dopamine increases in the neonatal olfactory bulb during odor preference training.” Brain Res. 564(1):149-53; 1991.
…we show that significantly more new neurons exist in the dentate gyrus of mice exposed to an enriched environment compared with littermates housed in standard cages.

– Kempermann G, Kuhn HG, Gage FH. “More Hippocampal Neurons in Adult Mice Living in an Enriched Environment.” Nature 386, no. 6624 (1997): 493-95.


We conclude that an extensively enriched environment prevents old rats from the aging-associated impairment of spatial cognition, synaptic plasticity and nitric oxide production.

– Arnaiz SL, D’Amico G, Paglia N, Arismendi M, Basso N, del Rosario Lores Arnaiz M. “Enriched Environment, Nitric Oxide Production and Synaptic Plasticity Prevent the Aging-Dependent Impairment of Spatial Cognition.” Molecular Aspects of Medicine 25, no. 1-2 (2004): 91-101.

Selected Bibliography

SEE FULL LIST OF RESEARCH ARTICLES

Coopersmith, R.; Weihmuller, F.B.; Kirstein, C.L.; Marshall, J.F.; Leon, M.  ‘Extracellular dopamine increases in the neonatal olfactory bulb during odor preference training.’ Brain Res. 564(1):149-53; 1991.

Diamond, M.C.; Krech, D. and Rosenzweig, M.R. ‘Effects of an Enriched Environment on the Histology of Rat Cerebral Cortex.’ Journal of Comparative Neurology 123 (1964): 111-20.

Woo, C.C.; Hingco, E.; Hom, C.; Lott, I. and Leon, M. ‘Environmental enrichment as a potentially effective autism treatment.’ Program No. 561.21. 2010 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. San Diego, CA: Society for Neuroscience, 2010. Online.

Kempermann, G.; Kuhn, H.G. and Gage, F.H. ‘More Hippocampal Neurons in Adult Mice Living in an Enriched Environment.’ Nature 386, no. 6624 (1997): 493-95.

What makes Sensory Enrichment therapeutic?

A stimulus needs to be interesting, focused and gentle in order for it to have a therapeutic effect on the brain.

Sometimes just the fact that a stimulus is focused can make it interesting. Let’s look at breathing, for example. We breathe while simultaneously completing multiple tasks–it’s something we do without noticing we’re doing it. But, if we decide to focus entirely on our breathing, in spite of it being a completely normal activity, it captures the brain’s attention.

In addition to being focused and attention-grabbing, a stimulus must be gentle in order for it to be therapeutic.

Sensory information that is too harsh or abrupt will exceed the level at which the brain will therapeutically process it. Instead, the abrasive input will trigger defense mechanisms.

Mendability exercises provide the brain with the interesting, focused, and gentle experiences it needs in order to be therapeutic.

The corpus callosum is typically smaller in children with autism

The corpus callosum is the structure deep in the brain that connects the right and left sides of the brain, coordinating the functions of the two halves.

What do the exercises look like?

The Water Game is an example of a game that encourages communication between the two sides of the brain.

Your child dips one hand in a bowl of warm water and the other hand in a bowl of cool water. After a few seconds, the bowls are switched and each hand is dipped into a new temperature of water. This process is repeated four times.

This exercise causes signals to be sent from the left hand to the right side of the brain and from the right hand to the left side of the brain.

Since these signals are sent at the same time, they cross paths in the middle of the brain on what is known as the communication bridge. In doing so, these signals increase the bridge’s capacity to quickly process signals. This is vital in developing strong and reliable complex brain communication.

Many children suffering from the symptoms of autism experience a bottleneck on the bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. As the bridge’s capacity to process and circulate signals grows, the greater the capacity the brain will have to function, learn, grow and overcome the symptoms of autism.

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Sign up to watch our latest webinar: - 8 most important things the latest clinical study teaches us about Sensory Enrichment, - 2 Sensory Enrichment techniques you can use at home today to help your child with autism

8 most important things the latest clinical study teaches us about Sensory Enrichment

2 Sensory Enrichment techniques you can use at home today to help your child with autism

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43 thoughts on “How It Works

  1. Sameer Hajela

    Just want to know – what sort of resources are required for activities/ exercises.
    Whether this program include any kit – where required resources are put together?

    Reply
    1. Kim Post author

      Yes, Rebecca, you can access Mendability wherever you have access to the Internet. This is a program that you access to do therapy at home with your child.

      For support and training, you’ll want to make arrangements with your assigned coach/therapist to work around the time difference. We have several families in Australia doing Mendability at the moment. The best time usually is in the morning for you, which is the afternoon for us.

      Reply

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