Why Use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in Autism?

The use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in autism was born from research ideas generated in my laboratory. As this was a technique not commonly used in our laboratory I tried to convince other groups about its potential usefulness. I traveled, gave lectures, and met with several individuals for this purpose, all without much success. In the end, I decided to do the trial on my own. Unfortunately, I had to wait in order to buy the equipment and acquire the necessary personnel to perform the trial. In all it took several agonizing years before the first trial was performed. Fortunately we had the first article on the subject published in the medical literature and several more have followed along with a good number of book chapters. Results have been positive but not extraordinary.Personally I have really enjoyed this line of research as it is a way of making a difference in patients lives with little in terms of side effects.

Cortical Chauvinism

In previous posts I have mentioned our findings of abnormal minicolumns in the brains of autistic individuals.  The minicolumn is an elemental modular unit of the cortex serving as an architectonic template according to which are arranged representative cellular elements as well as their connections. A chain of excitatory neurons (called pyramidal cells) with their projections (axonal and dendritic bundles) constitutes its core, extending radially through the layers of the cerebral cortex. Around the periphery of this core is neuropil (a cell-body sparse region) containing synaptic elements integrating translaminar connections among different levels of the minicolumn. The peripheral neuropil also contains inhibitory interneurons (prominently radially-oriented GABAergic double-bouquet cells) providing a “sheath” of inhibitory activity.

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The first panel recreates the position within a minicolumn of cells and their projections,  The second panel is meant to illustrate the compartmentalization of the minicolumn: the core comprised of excitatory cells and the peripheral neuropil…

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