NBC10 Philadelphia - Renee Chenault-Fattah
Doctors at CHOP are using a unique way to look at the brain to see what they can learn about autism. Nick Weiss, 10, who has Asperger's Syndrome is working with the local scientists as they use MEG to study his brain. NBC10's Renee Chenault-Fattah reports.
Local doctors are using a cutting-edge way of looking at the brain to see what they can learn about autism. They tell NBC10 that the information will help them create new ways to treat the communication disorder.
Nick Weiss, who is ten, has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome. The condition affects social skills, making it hard to interact with others. He is one of the children helping scientists at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia understand the disorder. Nick is part of a unique brain study using MEG, or magnetoencephalography.
"It's very neat stuff," Nick tells us.
MEG works very differently than CAT scans and MRIs which reveal detailed pictures of the MEG maps magnetic fields caused by the electrical activity of the brain -- activity created every time there is a thought or a feeling.
"What this machine really is, is a brain-wave detector. It's picking up brain activity whether it's good activity or bad activity," Dr. Tim Roberts explains.
MEG, which doctors already use to target the source of epilepsy, also reveals how quickly signals move from one area of the brain to another. Researchers have discovered that in autism, the timing and connection of those signals is slowed, causing a kind of traffic pile up. The tell NBC10 that study results can help them develop targeted treatments and allow them to monitor whether they're working or not. And doctors say there are no side effects.
"There is absolutely no Xray; there is no radiation," Dr. Roberts tells us.
As part of the study, Nick also met with a therapist who evaluated his academic development. That's information Nick's father says has already been valuable.
"And that's helpful if we can understand how his brain works and how he's processing information that helps us understand him better, and helps us actually do a better job of parenting," Paul Weiss tells us.