Overarousal and the autonomic nervous system in autism

I recently gave a lecture for Spectrum News in regards to arousal in autism.  We have done a good number of studies in this regard and the lecture, although simplified for the general audience, summarizes some of our findings.  I think one of the important take home messages is that we have ways to treat this autonomic arousal that are extremely effective (e.g., TMS).  I am also hoping that the same treatment may be of use in preventing sudden cardiac death in autism.  Sudden cardiac deaths accounts for some 4,000 unexpected fatalities every year within the United States.
The lecture was given in collaboration with my wife, Emily.  For some reason Spectrum News has taken a liking for joint presentations among researchers.  Emily was asked to speak about connective tissue disease in autism and I about autonomic dysregulation.  My part of the lecture starts at about 28:48. https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/multimedia/webinars/webinar-emily-and-manuel-casanova-on-autonomic-dysfunction-in-autism/
Let me know what you think about it.

4 responses to “Overarousal and the autonomic nervous system in autism

  1. Please, I have put forth numerous requests which have been ignored, where can I bring my son to be evaluated for TMS trials or treatments?


    • Sorry. TMS remains an experimentl technique. Its use in autism has not been approved by the FDA. There are some centers out there providing the same to patients, but they are primarily doing so for financial reasons. I accepted patients under clinical trials. Treated about 400 individuals and never charged anything. Unfortunately, I am in the process of closing down. I am looking to move academically, but if I don’t get another position, my be forced to retire. Not aware of other centers doing similar work in the USA.


  2. Thanks for the lecture!!!!
    My sympathetic system is super active and lights, noises, even a change in the wind  (by surprise) can put my autonomic system in a fight or flight mode. I have been trying different methods in order to have the parasympathetic taking the lead. Compression socks or a weighted blanket on my legs helped a bit. (I stop using compression socks became makes me urinate very frequently). I realized that when I am in frozen mode I perceive my lower extremities with the consistency of cotton wool, as if my propioception couldn’t reach that far. This insight, led me to know I need to exercise my legs as much as possible… Definitively there is some sort of correlation between expanded propioception and parasympathetic activation(!).
    I also learnt some craniosacral therapy exercises to activate the parasympathetic (vagus nerve), but they are not that easy to put into practice.
    Propranolol also helps a big deal.
    Besides that, meditation and mindfulness work well for me, but it takes time to develop the practice (doesn’t work for an emergency).
    While growing up I had many episodes of head banging and spacing out (being mentally deeply remote ). Fortunately I dont suffer that anymore. Saludos!


    • Thank you for the comment. I appreciate your insights. Hopefully these problems will gather more attention. I hope physicians target them in their treatment attempts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.