TMS as a Treatment For Autism

Trans-cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new treatment approach although similar treatments have been known to work for other conditions. On the NeurologicaBlog, Steven Novella explains the treatment as “a legitimate treatment modality” that is too new to know whether or not it truly works.  This article was written back in 2013. Now, in 2015, we’ve seen more studies that suggest that TMS may just be an effective treatment option.

The treatment itself consists of using magnetic fields to alter the neurons that fire in the brain. It can be used to either increase or decrease activity that is happening.

For example, in one study, High Frequency stimulation was applied to part of the brain where excitability is generated. This was found to benefit those studied who experienced social anxiety as well as helping with eye-hand coordination after stimulation in the premotor stimulation.

What does this mean for Autism?

Once more studies are conducted and if they are found to be as effective as they have been thus far, we may have a means of controlling the bothersome symptoms of Autism.

Similar treatments have been found to be beneficial in other conditions like depression. Parts of the brain that are found to be not functioning optimally are stimulated using electromagnetism.

If TMS is found to be effective, then not only do we have a treatment for Autism but for several other conditions that are being studied with the effectiveness of TMS including Parkinson’s, Migraines, and Insomnia.

Source: 

How Much Can Babies Remember? Can They Remember Birth?

Mother massaging  baby

When we take a look at a newborn baby, we often think of them as tiny, underdeveloped people who haven’t had the chance to think, feel pain, or remember anything of note yet. We think their only real abilities are to eat, sleep, cry, and fill up a diaper. This is actually a common misconception. Babies do in fact have the ability to do a lot more cognitively than often believed.

It was long thought that babies couldn’t feel pain. In fact, using anesthesia was much avoided when giving babies surgery because, why would they need it? Many thought that their cries were just automated, and didn’t indicate any kind of bad feeling. If you’re a parent, you know what triggers your child to cry. Perhaps they’re hungry. Or wet. Or tired. None of these are positive feelings — they sometimes make grown adults cry. Another scenario that proves this belief wrong is when a baby gets a shot — it’s not uncommon at all for them to react and cry because of the pain. A baby’s pain is very real.

Babies can think – There are a lot of studies out there that take a look at the cognitive processes of infants. It has been commonly thought that until the brain is fully formed, babies are not able to think. This has been proven wrong by many studies, but you don’t really need studies to see the baby’s mind at work.  When a baby hears its mother’s voice, you can see their heads move and try to locate the sound. If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of a baby dreaming, you’ll see them frown, smile, even giggle while dreaming. One cannot dream without thinking. The myth of babies being unable to think is debunked!

Babies CAN form memories – This is where birth comes in. It’s important to know that babies can indeed, without a doubt create implicit memories. They associate with feelings of warmth, their mother’s voice, and how to feed. These aren’t things that they are able to forget. However, with other memories, such as that of birth, if they indeed can remember it, it would take some kind of trigger. For example, have you ever smelled a familiar scent and it takes you back to the specific day and time you smelled it? Without that reminder, you might have never had the flashback. Researchers are looking into what exactly one of these cues or triggers would look like for an infant. Of course, scientists have a bit of a disadvantage since babies cannot communicate with words at birth.

Until we are more clear on exactly what babies can remember, we should, at the very least not underestimate the power of the human mind, no matter how small in seemingly unformed. Babies are a lot more intelligent than you may think.

Source:

http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/New-Edge-Science/babies-remember-birth.html

 

Could Autism Be An Autoimmune Disorder? There May Soon Be a Test!

Autism AutoimmuneWhen a woman is pregnant, the baby is protected by the womb as well as the placental barrier. As an additional level of protection, immune proteins from the mother will cross over the placental barrier to shield the baby from foreign bacteria and infections.

Sometimes, however these immune proteins do their job a little too much and begin to not only attack bacteria and viruses, but also the  brain tissue in the unborn baby’s head, according to a study published in Translational Psychiatry in 2013. (1)

A second study also found that the immune system proteins in attacking the brain can cause some of the symptoms of autism; most commonly the inability to communicate as well as repetitive behaviors.

Researchers believe that they have identified a type of Autism that can account for over 20% of children on the spectrum. They’re calling it MAR, or “Maternal Antibody Related”. (2)

Right now, Pediatric Bioscience is working with researchers to possibly release a test that will be able to detect whether or not the mother has the antibodies. If she does, it would be almost certain that the child will be born with Autism. If she does not have the antibodies, the child could still have autism, but it would be for other reasons.

If this is found to be accurate, which is seems to be at this point, we could be one step closer to finding out more about the cause of autism.

A cause is one step closer to a cure.

Sources:
(1) (2) http://www.nature.com/tp/journal/v3/n7/full/tp201347a.html

Could Epigenetics be the solution to Autism?

 

DNA and AutismDNA is like an instruction manual in creating all parts of our body. It sounds pretty simple, the body just follows these instructions and we grow and develop based on DNA, right? Only halfway right.

The DNA portion of the markup is unchangeable. It’s a firm plan. The DNA in our bodies are wrapped around Histones, a protein. Attached to the histone and DNA are other chemical tags called Epigenomes. While DNA itself isn’t able to be changed or modified, epigenomes are reactive based on external factors like diet, stress, and environmental factors. The epigenome adjusts genes based on what we are subjected to around us.(1)

It is widely believed that Autism Spectrum Disorders are genetic. However, there is also reason to believe that some of the factors of how the disorder affects someone can be traced to epigenomes, and how environmental elements affect them.  There are several chromosomes that have been traced to cases of Autism. (2)

Studies suggest that there is a connection between Autism / ASD and the chromosomes 15Q, 7Q, and X.

Duplications of chromosome 15Q (11-13) are commonly recurrent cytogenetic aberration associated with ASD. This occurs in 5% of patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The 15Q (11-13) chromosome is responsible for normal neurodevelopment.  The duplication of this chromosome is dependent on which parent the allele is derived from. Duplications in the maternal copy of this chromosome have been found to result in more cases of Autism. Overexpression of maternal genes is believed to be a cause of Autism. (2)

With chromosome 7, it has been found that changes in the number or structure of chromosome 7 (We normally have 2 copies of this chromosome), can causes delayed growth, mental disorders, and delayed speech. (3)

In the case of the x-chromosome, it’s important to note that there is a distinctive gender bias when it comes to Autism. There are 4 times as many males affected by Autism/ASD than there are females.

Based on the results of a study on females with Turner syndrome, a hypothesis involving epigenetic mechanisms was proposed to help describe the gender bias of ASD. Turner syndrome patients have only one X chromosome which can be either maternal or paternal in origin. When 80 females with monosomy X were tested for measures of social cognition, the patients with a paternally derived X chromosome performed better than those with a maternally derived X chromosome. Males have only one X chromosome, derived from their mother. If a gene on the paternal X chromosome confers improved social skills, males are deficient in the gene. This could explain why males are more likely to be diagnosed with ASD. (4)

 

Sources:
(1) http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/content/15/suppl_2/R138.full
(2) Schroer R.J., Phelan M.C., Michaelis R.C., Crawford E.C., Skinner S.A., Cuccaro M., Simensen R.J., Bishop J.,  Skinner C.,  Fender D., et al. Autism and maternally derived aberrations of chromosome 15q. Am. J. Med. Genet. 1998;76:327-336.
(3) Schanen N. C. (2006). “Epigenetics of autism spectrum disorders”. Human Molecular Genetics 15: R138–R150.
(4) Skuse, D.H., James, R.S., Bishop, D.V., Coppin, B., Dalton, P., Aamodt-Leeper, G., Bacarese-Hamilton, M., Creswell, C., McGurk, R. and Jacobs, P.A. (1997). “Evidence from Turner’s syndrome of an imprinted X-linked locus affecting cognitive function”. Nature 387 (6634): 705–708.

New Hope in Treatment of Autism in the Form of Stem Cells

stem-cell-therapy-for-autism

If you or your loved one suffer from any level of autism, you should be excited to know scientist are making great strides in the direction of treating this disease. By using human stem cells to grow the very first mini humans brains in a laboratory, scientists say this could very well lead to an entirely new level in the understanding of brain development and what goes wrong when a disorder such as autism occurs.

For the first time ever, scientists are now able to replicate the development of brain tissue in a full three dimensions. Under this study, scientists have already been able to produce a completely biological model of how a rare brain condition called microcephaly develops. This gives them a real-to-life human brain with this disorder and allows them to work directly with it to search for treatments and cures. They plan to use these very same techniques to create a mini human brain with the autism disorder so they may have a hands-on chance at finding ways to help those affected by autism.

While the development and study of mini human brains still has a very long way to go before it becomes a regular means of treating and curing diseases, it is a very positive and exciting step in working towards finding new ways to stop disease. Those who suffer from autism have a new reason for hope.

The important issues of Nagalase activity in ASD

source: FriendsofAutism.org
source: FriendsofAutism.org

Recent research has shown a strong correlation between Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and immune dysfunction. Nagalase, an immune system regulator, has been known to be overly active in many people with ASD. This association has already become a promising avenue of investigation.

The importance of immunological control
In order to manage a broad range of defensive tasks, the immune system requires multi-leveled and complex control mechanisms. If these regulatory mechanisms go awry for any reason, a multitude of disease states can develop. Allergies, Multiple Sclerosis and some types of diabetes are a few of the many disorders known to arise due to imbalanced immune regulation.

Nagalase (alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminidase) is an enzyme that functions as one factor in immune regulation and has been noted to be overly abundant in certain states of immune system malfunction and ASD. The normal role of nagalase is to inactivate a protein found in the blood that is responsible for activating macrophages. These important cells of the immune system are insufficiently activated when nagalase activity is excessive.

The potential for GcMAF therapy
Macrophage activating factor (GcMAF), another naturally occurring blood protein, also works to stimulate macrophages. Administered therapeutically, GcMAF has been shown in numerous human studies to be effective at enhancing immune functioning and decreasing nagalase activity.

New research providing ASD patients with GcMAF therapy has shown similar immunological improvements with little to no side effects. Most importantly, cognitive, social and language skills all showed substantial improvement during the therapy. These ground-breaking results make GcMAF an important and promising potential treatment for ASD.

Can Jellyfish Proteins Alleviate Autistic Speech Problems?

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Current research on Autism has been making great strides, and a new weapon in the fight against the syndrome is currently under consideration; the possibility that certain proteins derived from jellyfish can possibly alleviate some of the speech problems associated with the condition.

This possible treatment did not come from the usual sources delving into Autism, but rather from researchers focusing on a different syndrome… Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as MND or Lou Gherig’s Disease. One factor of this disease is faulty calcium regulation in the brain, leading to a state of elevated concentrations that damage neurons – and researchers have found that certain jellyfish proteins, specifically apoaequorin, can act as a buffer and reduce the effects of ALS.

One pharmaceutical company attempting to bring such a treatment to market has produced a drug that has shown great promise. Initial research into Prevagen has shown that it can improve memory in subjects, specifically in the areas of learning and word recall, as well as aiding in sleep. Though research into the drug/protein’s impact on ALS can only be called anecdotal at this point it has been reported that, while not halting the progress of the disease, patients who received apoaequorin evidenced progression rates much slower than their counterparts who did not receive the treatment.

At this point there are no studies into the impact of apoaequorin/Prevagen on Autism, but anything that would help protect a patient’s motor neurons from a neurological disease is definitely something to explore!

Using Oxytocin to Treat Autism

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What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a potent hormone that is generated within the nerve tissues of cells. It has many important functions within the body such as helping it to relax, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and induces breastfeeding and childbirth. In the brain it is functions as a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us have feelings of intimacy and safety with others. The hormone stimulates us to give or be receptive to affection that varies from casual to romantic feelings or parent and child bonding. It has been dubbed the “love hormone” because it creates tunnel vision by considerably heightening our focus on people we are interested in while drowning unrelated background noises or outside stimulus.

How Oxytocin Influences Autism

Scientists long suspected that people with autism-spectrum disorders experience difficulty processing social interactions because they have a compromised level of the oxytocin hormone. Until recently, the link has never been discovered as to why that is. New research reveals oxytocin as a crucial component for stimulating serotonin in the area of the brain that processes feelings of happiness with social interactions. Scientists believe that oxytocin therapy may be able to reduce feelings of social awkwardness and even boost positive social awareness for people with autism.

Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy and Autism

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Parents of children with Autism are always on the lookout for the most recent medical advances. Anyway that they can help their children become more connected with the outside world is a plus. Unfortunately, modern medical has not found many treatment options. There are no pills or surgeries that can appropriately treat Autism, but there is one less conventional treatment option that can help.

Most people wouldn’t perceive saunas as a treatment for a medical condition, but research shows children with Autism respond positively to Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy. This treatment method consists of using a sauna to heat up the body. Many responses in the body are stimulated by this therapy. One of them is the removal of heavy metals through sweating. Saunas raise the internal body temperature causing sweating which removes toxins. It is believed many children with Autism have high levels of metals and mercury in the bloodstream.

Another way that Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy benefits children with Autism is through triggering a fever response. Fevers are beneficial at fighting illness and are known to be very cleansing. Parents of children with Autism have often noted that after having a low grade fever their children have demonstrated better cognitive function and maintained eye contact. Using Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy can also increase the immune system function and blood flow. Parents who have children suffering from Autism should consider Far-Infrared Sauna Therapy as a treatment option.

Transcranial Magnetic Therapy Proves to be a Promising Procedure for the Autistic Brain

pain
The name may sound like a mouthful, but Transcranial Magnetic Therapy actually employs a simple and effective means of advancing how the brain both handles and communicates sensory information – which is key for those afflicted with autism as well as for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Essentially, the therapy employs a non-invasive technique that safely lessens overstimulation – also known as sensory overload – in the brain.

The therapy – which is painless and carries mild side effects, if any – involves a procedure that utilizes magnetic fields to awaken the nerve cells in the brain associated with mood control. An electroencephalogram (EEG) records the electrical activity along the patient’s scalp, which helps determine the scope and intensity of the treatments by gauging the degree to which the patient’s brain processes incoming sensory information.

With autism patients, the ultimate aim is to facilitate the process that encourages the brain to exist in a quieter state than it normally does, so that any outside stimulation will feel less overwhelming. Of course, results are dependent on the particular disorder being treated as well the profoundness of the disorder.

Some of the more notable and common results of the therapy include dramatically improved sleep patterns along with improved eye contact, focus and attention. Other examples of dramatic results include ones in which formerly nonverbal children are able to speak after just two therapy sessions.

The benefits of the Transcranial Magnetic Therapy – both social and cognitive – for autistic and ASD patients – are both vast and promising.