For the past four years I’ve been privileged to work with Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone and his team of scientists to explore autism and the brain. They are using high power magnetic fields to reach inside our minds to unravel some of the mysteries of how we think. The technique they use is called TMS, for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.
In my case, the result of some TMS experiments has been truly life-changing. I credit TMS with fundamentally altering the way I see and engage other people. My strong belief in the power of TMS is solidly based on my own experiences in the lab.
TMS uses the principle of induction to deliver tiny amounts of energy to precisely targeted areas of the brain. It’s done by placing a handheld electromagnet against the scalp and pulsing it with energy. The resultant magnetic field reaches into the brain, where it induces tiny electrical currents in the threads of brain cells, or neurons. That energy can enhance or inhibit the functioning of areas as small as 1% of our total brain mass. The process itself is really quite simple, but figuring out where and how to deploy it… that is the great mystery.
The TMS Lab is part of the Berenson-Allen Center for Non Invasive Brain Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
I invite you to read more about the lab on their own website, and on my blog. If you are interested in participating in any of our studies you can write Lindsay Oberman, PhD.
Monarch is a private school for kids with neurological differences. People have moved across the country to place their kids in Monarch’s calm environment. I met the folks at Monarch when I spoke there in late 2007. That visit sparked a collaboration that continues to this day.
John Barone and the crew (faculty and students both) wrote the Teaching Guide to Look Me in the Eye, and we are working together now on a guide for Be Different.
Google and Project Spectrum
Since early 2008, I have been a strong supporter of Google and their Project Spectrum initiative. The folks in Google's Boulder, Colorado office are using Sketchup to help autistic people express their ideas via shapes and designs on the computer.
As of spring 2010, I have joined the Scientific and Treatment boards of Autism Speaks. My job (I'm a volunteer) is to help review the many applications for research funding with a view to selecting the very best proposals for support.
My principal area of interest is autism in the adult population. I’m also very focused on the development of therapies and treatments to remediate the most disabling aspects of autism in people of all ages.