They put this coil on the motor function region of my head and sent electromagnetic pulses into it to make my finger move. Then they gave me a 40-second series of pulses (that was the worst part; that relentless tap tap) and saw how long it took my brain to start responding in normal time to the single pulses again.
Autistic people take longer to recover from TMS. They told me NTs usually take 30 minutes or less. Some autistics can take 2 hours. We have more brain plasticity than NTs. That’s why we have so many sensory sensitivities.
So far, TMS is only clinically approved for depression. But you might have read John Elder Robison’s account. He’d thought neurotypicals were pulling his leg about how deeply in tune they can be with somebody else. But they weren’t. Researchers are getting a ton of calls from people who read his essay in the New York Times and his book, Switched On.
This was a preliminary study. But they’ll have others. I’m excited for when I can do one. I want to know how much I’ll actually change. I feel like my inner world is pretty rich already. But I want to know people better. Especially people who care about me. I want to feel their presence and read their faces.
The main issue is funding. Most grants come from the government. There are some good private organizations like The Simons Foundation, but they mostly do genetic research. There’s not much going into making things better for autistic people who are already here. I can see where the neurodiversity movement is coming from when they talk about money.
Dr. Lindsay Oberman, the main researcher behind the Brown study, wants to be able to screen each future study participant with an MRI to see what kind of TMS we need. An individualized approach is important because autistic brains are all so different.
Autism is a hot button issue. I’m hopeful.