Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Autism
A New Option for Patients with Autism
Symptoms of autism do not respond to traditional medical treatments in all patients
- Impairments in socializing, communicating, and learning may not be improved by medications
- Many medications have problematic side effects that limit their effectiveness
TMS is a newer, non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic pulses, like an MRI machine, to increase activity in specific areas of the brain
- TMS has been safely used for over 10 years in patients with depression and anxiety
- Current studies suggest that TMS may also be helpful for many symptoms of autism
- Sedation is not required
- Extremely low risk of side effects
- 13+ years old
- Symptoms of any severity
How TMS Works
TMS has been shown to produce changes in neuronal activity in regions of the brain known to regulate mood, such as the prefrontal cortex. As each magnetic pulse passes through the skull and into the brain it increases the electrical activity of those select brain cells. This induces brief activity of brain cells underlying the treatment coil. The frequency of pulse delivery also influences whether brain activity is increased or decreased by a session of TMS. Recent studies also show that stimulation over the left and right sides of the brain can treat various mental illnesses.
What to Expect
You'll sit in a
wearing ear plugs,
with the magnetic coil
placed against your
When the machine is
turned on, you'll hear
clicking sounds and
feel tapping on your
The procedure will
last about 25
minutes, and you'll
remain awake and
After each treatment,
you can return to
your normal daily
Estate S., et al. (2010). “Frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) Affects Event-Related Potential Measures of Novelty Processing in Autism.” Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 35(2): 147–161.
Study Summary: 13 participants with high functioning autism, based on cognitive and behavioral testing. Participants received twice weekly EEG guided TMS treatment for a 3-week duration. The authors found both observational and measured improvement in repetitive-ritualistic behavior.
Barahona-Correa, B., et al. (2018). “Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience (27) 1-27.
Study Summary: 23 eligible reports were identified, comprising 4 case-reports, 7 non-controlled clinical trials, and 12 controlled clinical trials, comparing the effects of real TMS with waiting-list controls (n = 6) or sham-treatment (n = 6). Meta-analyses showed a significant, but moderate, effect on repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, social behavior, and number of errors in executive function tasks, but not other outcomes.