Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation Over the Posterior Superior Temporal Sulcus for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

SOURCE: Autism. 25(5):1279-1294, 2021 07.

AUTHORS: Ni HC; Chen YL; Chao YP; Wu CT; Wu YY; Liang SH; Chin WC; Chou TL; Gau SS; Huang YZ; Lin HY LAY

ABSTRACT: Intermittent theta burst stimulation is a varied form of repetitive transcranial magnetic non-invasive brain stimulation technique used to treat several neurological and psychiatric disorders. Its feasibility and therapeutic effects on the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus in children with autism are unknown. We conducted a single-blind, sham-controlled parallel randomized clinical trial in a hitherto largest sample of intellectually able children with autism (N = 78). Participants randomized to the active group received two-session/week intermittent theta burst stimulation for continuous 8 weeks. Those in the sham group received two-session/week sham stimulations in the first 4 weeks and then active intervention for the following 4 weeks after unblinding. First, we found that continuous 8-week intermittent theta burst stimulation on the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus in children with autism is safe and tolerable. Second, we found that 8-week intermittent theta burst stimulation produced greater therapeutic efficacy, although we did not find any significant effects of 4-week intermittent theta burst stimulation on core symptoms and social cognitive performances in autism. Further analysis revealed that participants with higher intelligence and better social cognitive performance, alongside less attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder severity at baseline, were more likely to be responders. This study identified that the factors contribute to responders and the results suggest that longer courses of non-invasive brain stimulation may be needed to produce therapeutic benefits in autism, with consideration of heterogeneous responses.