Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
We offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as part of the Optimal Brain Center, affiliated with Developmental Spectrums. TMS is a non-invasive brain modulating therapy that uses magnets to stimulate specific regions of the brain for a therapeutic effect. A magnetic coil is placed near the skull which induces a weak electric current in the brain, causing an increase or decrease in the activity of that part of the brain, depending on the type of stimulation that is used. It is not like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), in that it does not involve anesthesia or intentionally induce a seizure, and has not been shown to cause memory loss.
TMS is remarkably safe, and has been found to have many beneficial effects, including improving neurotransmitter function and blood flow to the brain. Low frequency protocols induce lasting suppression of brain excitability, while high frequency protocols induce lasting facilitation. The treatment protocol is individualized for each patient, and can be altered depending on the area of the brain that is being stimulated, and the frequency, number, and intensity of the magnetic pulses that are delivered.
Due to its ability to induce long-term changes in brain activity, TMS is an option in the treatment of a large number of neurological and psychiatric conditions. It is currently only FDA approved for the treatment of depression in adults, but it is being used “off label” in many other brain conditions in adults and children, including autism. Its use can be considered similar to using a medication off label, which is a very common practice in autism and other disorders.
There are many studies of TMS in autism that have reported data showing an improvement in both physiological brain function and behavioral symptoms, including improvements in irritability, inter-personal skills, and repetitive-ritualistic behaviors (“stims”). Depending on the protocol, other studies showed improvement in naming skills and reduced errors on tests of attention and accuracy. In ASD, TMS has been shown to induce changes in sensory, cognitive and affective (mood) processing. There is a non-profit organization that is devoted to promoting the use of TMS in autism, and more research at major institutions is being done every day.
Autism has many sub-types, and is a condition that has no cure, although addressing many of the underlying medical problems that accompany autism with biomedical intervention helps to improve the autism symptoms, and there are children who have lost their “autism” diagnosis. There are no FDA-approved treatments that address the core issues in this disorder, although some drugs can also help to control some of the symptoms. While there is no currently accepted single TMS protocol that is recommended for all types of autism, there are several off-label protocols that have shown promise in autism, and there are many more that exist off-label for other disorders such as ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, seizure disorders, apraxia, etc. There is reason to expect that these same protocols may be of some benefit in patients with autism who have many of these same symptoms, even though this has not been proven,tms as of yet. We will use our best judgment, in consultation with the parents or guardians, on the best protocol for each patient. If you are interested in trying TMS for your loved one with an autism spectrum disorder, give us a call to schedule an appointment so that we can discuss the options.