ScienceNews reports that electrical stimulation through electrodes planted deep in the brain of a severely autistic boy appeared to alleviate some of his symptoms:
The boy in the study, who was 13 at the time of his experimental surgery, suffered from severe autism symptoms: He couldn’t talk or make eye contact, woke up screaming repeatedly during the night, and habitually injured himself so badly that his parents restrained him almost constantly to protect him. Multiple rounds of psychiatric drugs failed to stave off his worsening symptoms.
In an effort to help him, doctors led by Volker Sturm of the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany implanted electrodes into the boy’s brain. Through trial and error, the doctors realized that stimulating a part of the amygdala, a brain structure important for emotions and memory, improved the boy’s symptoms. Stimulating other brain areas had no effect or worsened his symptoms.
After eight weeks of continuous electrical stimulation, the boy shifted on a clinical scale that measures irritability from “severely ill” to “moderately ill.” The boy also improved on a scale that measures autism symptoms. He began to make eye contact and was better able to control his behavior.