Scientists are taking a new approach to autism research using magnetic field generators that test the brain’s reflexes, the Boston Globe reports. Much like tapping a patient on the knee to gauge a physical reaction, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation triggers activity in specific areas of the brain through a charged paddle applied to the head. Researchers hope patients' reactions will offer new clues about the disease.
Early work with the technique suggests that autistic brains are more impacted by stimuli, and that brain changes caused by new experiences last an hour longer than average. "They're making connections, just not breaking them at the same rate as normal people,” said one researcher. He believes the cognitive functioning of autistic people may become mired in mental splinter paths.