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Neurology Behavior Brain and Mental Performance

Social Behaviors May Be Restored With Autism Therapy

4 months ago

1152  0
Posted on Feb 14, 2018, 11 a.m.

Brain stimulation in Autism therapy may restore social behaviours. Scientist are investigating if it is feasible to use neuromodulation to treat autistic children afters a new study suggests that some impairments, such as social impairments, can be corrected using brain stimulation. The research is published as the cover story for the December issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Brain stimulation in Autism therapy may restore social behaviours. Scientist are investigating if it is feasible to use neuromodulation to treat autistic children afters a new study suggests that some impairments, such as social impairments, can be corrected using brain stimulation. The research is published as the cover story for the December issue of Nature Neuroscience.

 

Researchers at the O’Donnell Brain Institute have providing findings from a study suggesting that a specific part of the cerebellum is key for autistic behaviours. The cerebellum, located near the brainstem, is thought to have only played roles in coordinating movement. The cerebellum also establishes more accessible targets for stimulation of the brain than many neural circuits buried deep within the brain that are autism related.

 

This finding is potentially very powerful, from a therapeutic standpoint, it won’t cure the underlying genetic causes, but improving social deficits could make a huge impact in the quality of life for children with autism, say Dr Peter Tsai from the UT Southwestern Medical Center.

 

The research utilized neuromodulation to show that mice and humans have parallel connections between domains within the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum that have been suggested in studies. The findings of this study have displayed that interrupting functions within the cerebellar resulted in autistic behaviours, in which the brain stimulation in mice had corrected the social impairment of.

 

The next phase of this study is to ensure that using this same technique would actually be safe to conduct in children. In the past doctors have been successful at safely being able to apply cerebellar neuromodulation in disorders such as schizophrenia, but it has not been studied with autism and children. Dr. Tsai plans to change this situation within the future studies at the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Stating that this area of the brain needs more attention in regards to understanding autism better.

 

ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that will affect around 1 in every 68 children in the USA. It is largely characterized by challenges with communication and social interactions, along with repetitive and restricted patterns of behaviour.

 

To understand the role of the cerebellum in mediating the behaviours better the team used neuromodulation to show the parallel connections between the cortex inferior parietal lobule and the right crusl domain of the cerebellum. Then they used brain imaging to show that the connections are interrupted in a cohort of autistic children and an autism mouse model, and went on to show interrupting functions within normal mice of the right crusl resulted in abnormal, repetitive behaviors, and impaired social interactions. Stimulating the right crusal of the mouse model improved social behaviours but did not improve the repetitive autistic behaviours in the mice models.

 

Dr. Tsai has suggested that the limited effects might reflect the restricted timeframe some behaviours may be corrected in or maybe involvement of additional parts within the cerebellum. Noting that this neuromodulation had restored social behaviours even in adult mice, suggesting that there may be benefits even if treatment is delayed until later on in life.

Material provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Catherine J. Stoodley, Anila M. D’Mello, Jacob Ellegood, Vikram Jakkamsetti, Pei Liu, Mary Beth Nebel, Jennifer M. Gibson, Elyza Kelly, Fantao Meng, Christopher A. Cano, Juan M. Pascual, Stewart H. Mostofsky, Jason P. Lerch, Peter T. Tsai. Altered cerebellar connectivity in autism and cerebellar-mediated rescue of autism-related behaviors in mice. Nature Neuroscience, 2017; 20 (12): 1744 DOI: 10.1038/s41593-017-0004-1

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