Can MeRT Help Treat Autism?

Playing A Single Mom Shares Her Struggles to Raise Child with Autism

The Doctors meet mom Leia, whose son Noam was diagnosed with autism at 26 months. He is now 12 years old and non-verbal. The single mom tells us not being able to communicate effectively is her son's biggest challenge and wishes there was something that could help.

"I would love to hear him say, 'I love you, Mom,'" she shares, explaining hopes her son will have the ability to speak and express himself one day.

Watch: Is There New Hope for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Neurologist Dr. Spencer Miller joins the conversation to discuss a new type of treatment MeRT, an emerging and experimental technology that attempts to reprogram abnormal electrical signals in the brain. The treatment measures the origin of the abnormal electrical signs and then modulates the signals, which can lead to behavioral changes. Dr. Miller says the treatment is non-invasive, pain-free, and requires no medication. The only thing someone may feel is a mild electrical pulse, which he describes as a "tap on the forehead."

Watch: Is This New Experimental Autism Treatment Unsafe?    

He recommends 4 to 6 weeks of treatment, which are daily for 30 minutes, and says results can be seen in the first few days or first week. One of the biggest changes he has seen in children who undergo the treatment is their language. He also shares that many parents feel like their kids are more present after the treatment.

When it comes to side-effects, Dr. Miller says only 1 in 150,000 people have experienced seizures from the treatment, which he explains would stop once the treatment is stopped.

Watch: Should Mom Try Experimental Treatment for Her Son with Autism?

Also joining the conversation is clinical neuroscientist Dr. Lindsay Oberman, who has been using techniques like MeRT for over 15 years. She says there are still questions about which brain circuits need to be modulated in order to change specific behaviors. She says her concern is there is not enough scientific-based evidence connected to the treatment and notes it is not FDA-approved and has not been submitted for approval yet. She hopes for future trials of the treatment.

Should Leia have her son Noam undergo this treatment? Dr. Miller and Dr. Oberman weigh in on whether they feel Noam might benefit from MeRT. Also, the panel discusses why there have not been clinical trials for this type of treatment.


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