Trouble in Mind

The following is abstracted from a very long article about our work that appeared locally in Louisville Magazine. The article was authored by Jenni Laidman and published in the August issue, pages 56-62, 2013. The article in its totality can be seen/downloaded from http://loumag.epubxp.com/i/144820

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“They stand like microsoldiers in tight ranks, shoulder-to-shoulder across the top of your brain, each sentry humming its own tune, these millions of tiny processors running your life.”

[In regards to the improvement we have noticed in autism spectrum disorder individuals after Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation…] “The answer is the magnet’s interaction with the particular arrangement of all those soldierly microprocessors-called minicolumns- across the top of your brain. There are hundreds of millions of these stacks of cells in the cortex- the brain layer that folds and corrugates as your intellect develops… These stacks of maybe 200 excitatory neurons are responsible for sending go-go signals, often to distant regions of the brain. But where things appear to go wrong in autism is in the periphery of the column, among smaller inhibitory neurons that surround the core. Unlike excitatory ones, inhibitory neurons work only in the neighborhood. Their task is to keep the excitement from boiling over, like a kind of insulation….This inhibitory region of the minicolumn is consistently smaller in autistic brains-about 12 percent smaller…. As a consequence of this lost insulation, excitatory signals dominate and overlap in autism…The firing of one minicolumn core sends static electricity to its neighbors. Individual, discrete signals are overwhelmed by the noise of other microprocessors. There is simply too much stimulus.”

“Stimulus overload is devastating to the brain, Casanova says. Someone overloaded with stimuli: “is actually being traumatized by their own brain””.

“That he proposes is the story of autism.”

“When you think of the many feats your brain can execute, few are as mighty as its ability to not notice. In fact, you need to work hard to notice more than one thing at a time. If you direct your attention, you can feel the drape of your shirt on your shoulders, the rub of your pant leg at your knee, the squeeze of your running shoes where they meet your ankle, the way your hair lies on your scalp, the seat of your chair pushing at your hip bones, the whoosh of the ceiling fan, the monotonous whirr of your computer, several kinds of birds chirping outdoors, distant traffic and an airplane. Now imagine if your brain was not so skilled at ignoring. What if all these sensations came at you simultaneously, no single stimulus more important than the next- every sensation, all the time, competing with every other sensation, none with particular salience, all with similar urgency?”

“This may be what it means to have autism.”

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We were the first group to use  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in autism spectrum disorders.  Our results have been reported in a number of articles and book chapters within the medical literature. A previous blog (see http://bit.ly/WgGkGB ) describes in more detail the theory behind this therapy.

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