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Michael Leon

Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior
School of Biological Sciences

Center for Autism Research and Treatment


Ph.D., University of Chicago

Phone: (949) 824-5343
Fax: (949) 824-2447
Email: mleon@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
2205 McGaugh Hall
Mail Code: 4550
Irvine, CA 92697

picture of Michael  Leon

Research
Interests
Sensory Enrichment Therapy for Autism
   
URL Autism Clinical Trials Program
   
Research
Abstract
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is expressed as a social-behavioral imbalance that often involves communication difficulties, maladaptive behaviors, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety, motor (movement) problems, seizures, and gastrointestinal distress. Commonly, individuals with ASD experience some form of atypical sensory responsiveness, including sensory over-sensitivity, sensory unresponsiveness, or sensory-seeking behaviors.

In animal models of autism, increases in both sensory stimulation and motor activity have been shown to result in many benefits, including improvements in learning and memory, reduction in aggressive behavior, decreased anxiety, and reduction of repetitive behaviors.

We have translated this approach to humans, and we have been studying the benefits of increased sensory-motor activity in children with ASD. In a clinical trial, we examined the effects of sensory-motor enrichment in children with ASD, age 3-12, and found that 42% of the children receiving the sensory-motor enrichment had a clinically significant improvement on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). In addition, statistically significant improvements in cognition were observed in the sensory-motor enrichment group compared to the control group. Finally, 69% of parents in the sensory-motor enrichment group and 31% of parents in the control group reported improvement in their child over the 6-month study (in press).

We are currently conducting another clinical study involving children with ASD, age 3-6. In this study, we are continuing to examine the benefits of an enriched sensory-motor environment on cognitive abilities and behavior in children with ASD. Enrollment in this study has closed.
   
Publications Woo, C.C. and Leon, M. Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: A randomized controlled trial. Behavioral Neuroscience, 2013, published online.
   
  Johnson, B.A., Ong, J., and Leon, M. Glomerular activity patterns evoked by natural odor objects in the rat olfactory bulb are related to patterns evoked by major odorant components. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2010, 518, 1542–1555.
   
  Leon, M. and Johnson, B.A. Is there a space-time continuum in olfaction? Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2009, 66, 2135-2150.
   
  Johnson, B.A., and Leon, M. Glomerular map. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. (Binder, M.D., Hirokawa, N., and Windhorst, U., Eds.) Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 2009, 1745-1748.
   
  Johnson, B.A., Xu, Z., Ali, S.S., and Leon, M. Spatial representations of odorants in olfactory bulbs of rats and mice: Similarities and differences in chemotopic organization. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2009, 514, 658-673.
   
  Johnson, B.A. and Leon, M. Chemotopic odorant coding in a mammalian olfactory system. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2007, 503, 1-34.
   
  Johnson, B.A., Arguello, S., and Leon, M. Odorants with multiple oxygen-containing functional groups and other odorants with high water solubility preferentially activate posterior olfactory bulb glomeruli. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2007, 502, 468-482.
   
  Johnson, B.A. and Leon, M. Understanding olfactory coding via an analysis of odorant-evoked glomerular response maps. The Senses: A Comprehensive Reference, Olfaction and Taste, S. Firestein, G. K. Beauchamp, Eds. Elsevier, 2008, 719-723.
   
  Cleland, T., Johnson, B.A., Leon, M., and Linster, C. Relational representation in the olfactory system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 2007, 104, 1953-1958
   
  Effects of functional group position on spatial representations of aliphatic odorants in the rat olfactory bulb. Johnson BA, Farahbod H, Saber S, Leon M. J Comp Neurol. 2005, 483:192-204.
   
  Interactions between odorant functional group and hydrocarbon structure influence activity in glomerular response modules in the rat olfactory bulb. Johnson BA, Farahbod H, Leon M. J Comp Neurol. 2005, 483:205-216.
   
  Local and global chemotopic organization: general features of the glomerular representations of aliphatic odorants differing in carbon number. Johnson BA, Farahbod H, Xu Z, Saber S, Leon M. J Comp Neurol. 2004, 6:234-249.
   
  Spontaneous vs. reinforced olfactory discriminations., Linster C. Johnson, B.A., Morse, A., Yue, E. and Leon, M., Journal of Neuroscience, 2002, 22: 6842-6845
   
  Functional mapping of the rat olfactory bulb using diverse odorants reveals modular responses to functional groups and hydrocarbon structural features., Johnson, B.A., Ho, S., Xu, Z., Yihan, J.S., Yip, S., Hingco, E.E. and Leon, M., Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2002, 449: 180-194
   
  Perceptual correlates of neural representations evoked by odorant enantiomers., Linster, C., Johnson, B.A., Morse, A., Yue, E., Xu, Z., Hingco, E.E., Choi, Y., Choi, M., Messiha, A. and Leon, M, Journal of Neuroscience, 2001, 21: 9837-9843
   
  Expression of active caspase-3 in mitotic and postmitotic forebrain cells of rat., Yan, X.X, Najbauer, J., Woo, C.C., Dashtipour, K., Ribak, C.E. and Leon, M., Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2001, 433: 4-22
   
  Johnson, B.A., Woo, C., Zeng, Y., Hingco, E.E., Ong, J., and Leon, M. Prolonged stimulus exposure reveals prolonged neurobehavioral response patterns. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2010, 518, 1617-1629.
   
  Johnson, B., Woo, C,C. and Leon, M. Spatial coding of odorant features in the glomerular layer of the rat olfactory bulb. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1998, 393, 457-471.
   
  Johnson, B.A., Woo, C.C., Hingco, E.E., Pham, K.L. and Leon, M. Multidimensional chemotopic responses to n-aliphatic acid odorants in the rat olfactory bulb. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 1999, 409, 529-548.
   
  Johnson, B.A. and Leon, Modular glomerular representations of odorants in the rat olfactory bulb and the effects of stimulus concentration. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2000, 422, 496-509.
   
  Johnson, B. A. and Leon, M. Odorant molecular length: One aspect of the olfactory code. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 2000, 426, 330-338
   
Professional
Societies


   
Graduate Programs Neurobiology and Behavior

   
Research Centers Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
   
Center for Autism Research and Treatment
   
   
Link to this profile http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=2146
   
Last updated 05/20/2013