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Magnetic Resonance Therapy and Autism

Autism spectrum disorders or ASD constitutes a group of neurobehavioural conditions which usually affect individuals during their early childhood. A neurodiverse child may encounter difficulties with communication and emotional interactions while they may also possess repetitive behaviours along with limited interests in daily activities. These symptomsoften hamper the normal progression of a child’s social, academic, and behavioural tendencies.

In addition to the therapies targeting psychocognitive, behavioural, and communication skills of autistic children, magnetic resonance therapy (MeRT) is a promising, novel therapeutic strategy. MeRT has been successfully applied for treating a broad range of neurological disorders e.g., anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury. MeRT is a non-invasive technique which utilizes a strong electrical current to generate a magnetic field which is then transmitted to the brain tissues. This phenomenon is known as transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS. TMS allows a physician to locally target a specific area of the brain which could be associated with the pathology of the underlying neurological abnormality.

Electromagnetic stimulation is implicated in the modulation of neuronal firing inside the higher centres of brain. For instance, in individuals with ASD, TMS can be focused on the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of brain. The latter is a region associated with higher mental functions e.g., decision-making, organisation and planning, and working memory, and is often disturbed duringthe pathogenesis of ASD. It has been suggested that in relation to ASD, cortical areas such as PFC, can experience a disproportionate activation of the excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Subsequently, this alters the normal relationshipbetween the excitotoxic and inhibitory neurochemicals inside the brain matter.

Evidence indicates that application of magnetic resonance can restore the balance of excitotoxic chemicals inside the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, MeRT is also capable of switching off the effects of inhibitory chemical messengers which suppress the transmission of neuronal signals. A potentiated action of these inhibitory chemicals has been correlated with abnormal movements and repetitive actions encountered in ASD.However, MeRT has proven efficacious in terms of slowing down these inhibitory responses among children with high-functioning autism. Moreover, this form of therapy has also demonstrated a significant efficacy in terms of improving social interactive skills while also eliminating stereotyped behavioursassociated with autism. Furthermore, application of magnetic resonance therapy to selected areas inside the prefrontal cortex has been associated with a drastic alleviation of self-reportedanxiety in autism which is comparable to its effects seen in treatment-resistant depression. Attentional deficit is a key symptom in autism where a child may find it difficult to sustain concentration for prolonged periods of time. In this regard, MeRT can significantly lessen a child’s focus on meaningless stimuli while improving their attention span for more relevant stimuli.

To date, there exist no standard biomedical therapies which have proven substantially beneficial in autism. Despite being a novel treatment, magnetic resonance therapy is a feasible and effective approach for treating a multidimensional disorder such as ASD.

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