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Researchers say deep brain stimulation may alleviate autism

In a groundbreaking report, doctors said that electrodes implanted in the brain of a 13-year-old with severe autism reduced the boy's symptoms and allowed him to use language for the first time ever. The one-person study was conducted by German researchers and could offer hope to the many people throughout the world who live with severe autism and its disabling symptoms.

The young man involved in the study was diagnosed with autism and an intellectual disability. Even though the teen had been on medication prior to the study, he engaged in serious life-threatening behaviors, was almost wholly non-verbal, did not make eye contact and could not sleep longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany said they implanted electrodes deep in the boy's brain and found success when they stimulated the amygdala area, which affects memory and emotion.

After receiving the treatment, the teen's parents said they noticed change. Not only was their son engaging in life-threatening behaviors less frequently, they said he was also sleeping better and enjoying activities that caused serious challenges in the past. After six months, the teen's parents said he even began to speak for the first time by saying single words like "mama" and "papa."

The researchers concluded that they had demonstrated for the first time that deep brain stimulation could "markedly reduce" behaviors associated with autism such as anti-social behavior, fear and anxiety. They said further research is needed to better understand how the stimulation affects the brain.

Severe autism is a behavioral disorder that can prevent a person from leading a normal life. Luckily, for individuals with severe autism and other mental impairments, Social Security Disability benefits are often available to help supplement their income.

Source: Disability Scoop, "Deep Brain Stimulation May Improve Autism Symptoms," Michelle Diament, Jan. 31, 2013

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