Magnets for the mind

Clients have been asking about “magnet treatment” for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  One of the most readable accounts regarding Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is John Elder Robison’s Switched On:  A memoir of brain change and emotional awakening. This book is a delightful blend of “how does it work?” and “what does it do” as in, what might the day to day implications be for patients who try TMS?

As always, Mr. Robison explains the world as he sees it, with a blend of scientific details and introspection. He notes that while he was curious about TMS, some in his support network were quite leery of the procedure.  Mr. Robison could only see the upsides, while others worries about how brain changes might impact his personality or relationships.

In short order, Mr. Robison experienced diverse outcomes: he was able to maintain eye contact, make sense of the eye contact, understand the feelings of others better, and his range of tone in spoken language changed.  People who knew him well noticed the differences, AND people who didn’t see him often noticed the differences.  It would appear that TMS had quite the impact on Mr. Robison. Unfortunately, TMS also spelled the end of some important relationships for Mr. Robison, and outcome that he did not predict.

TMS is a treatment that is not yet approved, but is likely in the future of comprehensive treatment options for folks with ASD.  It appears that TMS is already used as a treatment for depression. A few points to ponder: responses to TMS vary, and insights about the outcomes also appear to vary.  There may be some aspects related to maturity (the teenage brain vs a very mature brain) that come into play, but these differences may also be accounted for my life experiences and the developmental expectations that come with a given age.  (A teenager lacks motivation and insight…social and emotionally developmentally appropriate or better explained by brain development, cultural expectations, or anxiety/depression?  When you solve that puzzle, do let me know!)

Naturally, my client base heard about this on NPR or by reading the NYTimes.  Here are a couple of links:

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