A 2012 case study reports that “Deep Brain Stimulation in the basolateral amygdala improves symptoms of autism and related self-injurious behavior

A team from Germany reports on the case of a 13-year old boy with autism who was engaging in life-threatening self-injurious behavior.    Doctors implanted a stimulator that could provide inputs to multiple different brain sites (“the paralaminar, the basolateral (BL), the central amygdala as well as the supra-amygdaloid projection system”).

After the surgery, no improvement was seen – at first.   But then they turned on the stimulator.

Parents and clinicians found that stimulating one of those sites, the basolateral amygdala, improved a wide variety of symptoms associated with autism.

The patient experienced a marked decrease in self-injurious behavior.   AND what’s more, he experienced improvements in social behavior,  emotion regulation, and sleep cycle regulation.

After 6 months, he began to utter single words (“Papa”, “Mama”) or sing along with music — actions that would have been impossible before the stimulation.

His dosage of Abilify  could be reduced, his dosage of Lorazepam eliminated.

Researchers conclude that “the amygdala has an important part in the etiopathogenesis of autism” and that the basoloateral nucleus of the amygdala “appears to be pivotal”.    Not only did they find the deep-brain stimulation  to be effective, but they also found it “did not evoke any side-effects”.


Another  brick in the wall, thanks to:

Sturm V, Fricke O, Bührle CP, Lenartz D, Maarouf M, Treuer H, Mai JK and Lehmkuhl G (2013) DBS in the basolateral amygdala improves symptoms of autism and related self-injurious behavior: a case report and hypothesis on the pathogenesis of the disorder. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6:341. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00341


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