Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD refers to a very wide range of behavioral symptoms which health providers categorize in different ways. ASD affects a person’s communication skills, social interaction, behavior, and interests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ASD affects 1 in every 59 8-year-old children in 2014. The disorder is four times more common in boys than in girls and can happen to anyone regardless of racial or ethnic groups.
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Conventional Treatment Methods
There are a number of currently available treatments for people with ASD but mostly involve prescription medications for symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and inattentiveness. Some may include classes that help those people learn social skills, adaptive coping, problem-solving which all focuses on how they can manage their daily living routines.
Conventional treatment methods may offer relief for some patients but many are left unsatisfied with the results. These medications may not work for everyone with ASD and using prescription medications often lead to far worse health conditions.
TMS: A Safe Alternative Treatment
Two of the most common ASD symptoms include difficulties in social interaction and repetitive behaviors both verbal and non-verbal. People with ASD along with their loved ones spend a lot of time seeking out various treatments for alleviating the symptoms.
Many neuroscientists are now exploring different possibilities to treat ASD symptoms without the danger of various health complications. Experts are now looking for the possibility of using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to address the problem.
TMS used safe and painless electromagnetic waves that can stimulate certain brain areas to produce neurotransmitters necessary for normal brain activity.
Medical professionals place a coil near the prefrontal cortex of the patient stimulating the region in the brain that regulates mood and behaviors. It’s a proven technique to treat major depressive disorders which the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2008. There are no known severe adverse effects of TMS which many health care providers considered as safe and effective.
Ongoing TMS research
For the past few decades since its development, scientists have been studying the use of TMS as a possible treatment option for different neurological and psychiatric disorders. Today, the FDA gave its official nod for TMS as an alternative treatment method for depression in adults who failed to respond to conventional medications. Having an FDA approval signifies its importance of having a safe procedure which can help with other conducted clinical trials.
With various studies supporting TMS efficacy in modulating mood and behaviors, neuroscientists are now considering this technique to address the two main challenges associated with ASD – social interaction and repetitive behaviors.
The Harvard University, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital and at the University of Louisville published the medical research findings in using TMS in ASD-related symptoms. Today, there are more than 100 patients with ASD that had been published in several professional scientific journals worldwide.
TMS as an Alternative Treatment for ASD
Currently, there are several research studies on TMS as a treatment method for ASD. Even though it’s still at its infancy stage, TMS is seen to help relieve symptoms such as repetitive behaviors, and irritability. According to experts, TMS can help improve other autism-related disabilities like eye-hand coordination and social skills.
A lot of patients with ASD in these pilot studies have shown significant improvements in their social skills and other executive functioning.
Patients who participated in these early studies become more aware and able to project conventional demeanor. They are observed to have a better social functioning, ability to read nonverbal cues, and were able to interact with another person. As they improved their social skills, experts noticed that they also show decreased rigidity and repetitive behaviors.
With its positive initial results, there are three known clinical trials using TMS as a treatment for ASD-related symptoms. A research study in Canada focuses on how TMS can help with executive functioning. Another study in Israel is looking at the effects of TMS in children and adolescents with ASD and intellectual disability. Lastly, a French study is finding ways at the possible changes in social cognition in adults with ASD using TMS.