10 years ago, in September 2003, Scientific American published a special edition on the Brain, reviewing the latest research on Brain plasticity. It had articles with titles like “Brain, repair yourself” and “The Mutable Brain.” At the time Sensory Enrichment Therapy was still experimental and we used this special edition of the magazine to teach anxious parents that it is possible for the brain to change and that we are going to try to treat their child’s disorder by triggering the mechanisms of brain repair described by the scientists and authors.
Around that time Prof. Leon was contacted by one of his friends for help with his daughter, who he suspected might have autistic symptoms. It was then that Prof. Leon decided that Sensory Enrichment Therapy needed to be evaluated clinically and independently so that it could become more widely adopted by the medical community.
It took over 5 years to get funding for a study that would look at combining sensory inputs like touch and smell in short pleasant daily sessions as a method of treating autism. Today, the results of that study have been published in Behavioral Neuroscience and Prof. Leon and co-author Cynthia Woo were recognized with the DG Marquis Award for best neuroscience paper of the year 2013.
A second study replicating the pilot with a wider population is being peer-reviewed, and a few other studies looking at the possibility of Sensory Enrichment Therapy as a treatment for Autism, a treatment for ADHD and a treatment for Rett’s syndrome. Brain imaging will be used in a couple of them to look at possible physiological changes in the brain as a result of this new autism therapy, which is indeed meant to increase neuroplasticity, dendritic arborization and neurogenesis.
Today, 10 years after that special edition on brain plasticity, Scientific American published an article reviewing the pilot study of Sensory Enrichment Therapy that activates the mechanisms described 10 years ago, and it feels like we are coming full circle.
You may read the full Scientific American article about Sensory Enrichment Therapy here: