Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. Autism is characterized by three kinds of symptoms: deficiency in social interaction, difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, and severe disabilities in interest areas and activities. In addition, autistic people may develop extreme reactions to noise, touch, or other sensory stimuli. These symptoms are often permanent.
Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects each individual differently and to varying degrees of severity. About 2-10 out of 10,000 individuals suffer from some kind of autism. Men are four times more likely to be autistic than women.
Autism is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in autistic versus non-autistic children. There is no known single cause for autism, and a combination of several factors may be involved. In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, supporting a genetic basis to the disorder. Other researches are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to environmental chemicals. There are several indications for impaired connectivity within the brain in autistic subjects and pathological activity within several brain regions has been reported.
One hypothesis holds that one of the major impairments of autism has to do with the ‘theory of mind’ (ToM)1. A ToM impairment refers to a difficulty in understanding the mental state and perspective of another person, an ability that is a prerequisite for developing normal social skills. These skills are divided into cognitive ToM, which refers to the ability to understand the beliefs and perspective of another person, and affective ToM, which refers to the ability to understand another person’s emotions. Imaging studies have revealed that certain brain areas, including areas in the prefrontal cortex, are involved in ToM, primarily cognitive ToM2, while other areas, including the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, are involved in affective ToM3.
There is at present no treatment capable of curing autism. Treatment at an early age can produce substantial functional improvements in autistic children. Various treatment techniques have yielded significant beneficial results in autistic children, and it appears that the earlier these treatments begin, the better their prospects are. In contrast, the options for treating adults with autism are highly limited.
BrainsWay’s* treatment offers an effective*, safe and non-invasive treatment that uses Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to treat autism. The treatment performs magnetic stimulation of brain structures and networks related to autism, and brings significant improvement to patients. It is an outpatient procedure and does not require hospitalization or anesthesia, is generally well tolerated and entails minimal systemic side effects*. BrainsWay’s treatment is approved by the CE* for treating autism in adults.
1Baron- Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Lawson, J., Griffin, R., Ashwin, C., Billington, J., et al. (2005). Empathising and systemising in autism spectrum conditions. In F. R. Volkmar, R. Paul, A. Klin & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 628-639). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
2Gallagher, H. L., & Frith, C. D. (2003). Functional imaging of ‘theory of mind’. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(2), 77-83.
3Shamay-Tsoory, S. G., & Aharon-Peretz, J. (2007). Dissociable prefrontal networks for cognitive and affective theory of mind: A lesion study. Neuropsychologia, 45, 305
* For references click here
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