Theta Burst Stimulation for Autism

Jul 15, 2022

Theta burst stimulation or TBS  is a new brain stimulation protocol used to treat various psychiatric and neurological disorders. Its efficacy in autism spectrum disorder treatment is still scrutinized, but preliminary results have shown positive outcomes. 

Many patients with autism spectrum disorder have seen positive results from theta burst stimulation. However, it is essential to consult with a medical provider to determine an appropriate course of treatment. 

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that affects the perception and socialization ability of the affected person. It usually causes problems with communication and social interaction. This disorder also results in limited and repetitive behavior patterns. Spectrum refers to various symptoms with varying severity. 

There’s no exact known cause of ASD. However, there are several risk factors for ASD, including:

  • Having a low birth weight 
  • Having an immediate family member who’s autistic 
  • Metabolic imbalances 
  • Fragile X syndrome 
  • Certain types of genetic mutation 
  • Maternal history of viral infection 
  • Metabolic imbalance 
  • Fetal exposure to medication like thalidomide and valproic acid 
  • Low birth 

What are the Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

Some children show signs of autism during early infancy. While others start showing signs of this disorder after a few months or years of birth. For those that portray autism symptoms during infancy, they may show the following symptoms:

  • Lack of response while called out by their name 
  • Reduced eye contact 
  • Indifference to their caregivers 

Those who develop this disorder during infancy and later life suddenly lose their language and become withdrawn and aggressive. This usually occurs at two years. 

Some children with autism may also experience difficulty learning and may appear to have some signs of lower than normal intelligence. Other children with this disorder have average to high intelligence. It’s interesting for those with high intelligence since they learn quickly and have trouble communicating. 

What is Theta Burst Stimulation?

Theta burst stimulation is the newest form of transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). This approach guarantees quicker results than typical TMS procedures. It works by applying theta to a particular area of the brain. A conventional TMS would last 37 days, while TBS would last for a few minutes. 

Theta refers to electroencephalogram or EEG waves ranging between 4-7 Hz. This is referred to as theta burst since it applies a range of 3-pulse 50Hz of theta frequency at intervals of 5Hz or 200ms. 

There are two types of TBS treatment : Continuous (cTBS) and Intermittent (iTBS). A professional can help determine the best type given the patient’s specific needs. A treatment provider can ensure patients receive the correct treatment protocols for their situation. 

Continuous TBS 

Continuous TBS or cTBS is an excitatory stimulation that increases neuronal activity. It’s used to treat disorders that require stimulation, such as depression, where part of the brain is underactive. This TBS provides 20 seconds of uninterrupted or 300 pulses. While a typical rTMS takes about 20 minutes to produce the same results. 

A Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy used in human models revealed that this protocol increases the GABA in M1. And does so without significantly changing the glutamine or glutamate levels. 

Intermittent TBS 

Intermittent or iTBS produces a two-second theta burst at 30 pulses at intervals of 10 seconds. Unlike cTBS, iTBS is an inhibitory stimulation that decreases or calms neuronal activities. It’s best used in the motor cortex stimulation to produce facilitatory effects that outlast at least 15 minutes of stimulation. 

The preferred increase for this stimulation is between 12 and 13 waves. It’s also ideal for inhibiting pyramidal cell output by reducing the interneuronal parvalbumin expression. 

How does Theta-Burst Stimulation Compare with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

There are various similarities and differences between Theta-burst stimulation and other TMS protocols. Some of the similarities between these treatment options include: 

  • They’re derived using the same medical device and use the same application technique 
  • Both can treat major depression 
  • Both are used by focusing on the Left prefrontal cortex part of the brain 
  • Both are useable as outpatient devices without compromising other people’s safety
  •  They have equal efficacy in the treatment of major depression 

When it comes to the difference between TMS and TBS, you may notice the following:

  • iTBS rely on a faster pulsing setting in the TMS. Newer models can deliver both rTMS and iTBS, while some can only deliver iTBS
  • TBS is faster than conventional TMS 
  • Patients can have a shorter treatment time. Making it more flexible and less frequent to make clinical visits save costs significantly. 

Benefits of Theta Burst Stimulation 

TBS has several benefits for patients undergoing the procedure. For instance, like regular TMS, it’s adequately safe and tolerable. It comes with very few side effects. 

Another significant benefit of TBS is that it doesn’t take more treatment time, making it significantly cheaper than other TMS protocols. 

How Theta Burst Stimulation Helps with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Following FDA approval of theta burst stimulation in 2018, researchers have been trying to determine its efficacy among people with ASD. A study found continuous TBS effective in identifying the biomarkers for kids and adolescents with high functioning autism spectrum disorder. 

This study aimed to identify a reliable therapeutic response assessment among kids with ASD. Researchers applied cTBS to the motor cortex as a biomarker for high-functioning ASD children and adolescents. They divided these participants into two groups based on age and gender. The research also aimed to compare the progressive trail of long-term depression, such as plasticity, in the two groups. 

Please note that there are still ongoing clinical trials to determine the therapeutic effects of continuous theta-burst stimulation on ASD. There is a clinical trial at the Chang Gung Memorial hospital assessing the therapeutic effects of cTBS in Autism Spectrum disorder

Theta Burst Stimulation for Autism at Brain Therapy TMS 

Theta burst stimulation is a new transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatment. It has proven to be a more effective autism spectrum disorder treatment than conventional TMS options. However, since this treatment is still new, it’s crucial to find reliable TMS services offering TBS services. 

At Brain Therapy TMS San Diego, we offer high-quality TMS services to treat various conditions, including autism spectrum disorder. Our staff has the experience to guarantee effective results by using theta-burst stimulation to treat autism spectrum disorder. Contact us today if you want to know more about our services. Our team would be happy to answer any further questions and explain our treatment options. 

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