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Olfactory and Other Novel Treatments for Autism

Autism is a severe developmental disorder, involving profound deficits in communication, social interactions and repetitive/compulsive behaviors. While there is increasing adoption of early interventions for the treatment of autism, these therapies require an extraordinary commitment of time and money, with only varying degrees of success. This project took advantage of recent findings in the animal literature demonstrating that early sensory and motor stimulation allow brains to become much more resistant to neurological challenges, thereby preserving neurobehavioral function in the face of genetic, toxic and physical insults to the brain. In preliminary work, the investigator considered the possibility that humans challenged by autism would have similar gains in functionality with a specific type of increased sensory stimulation. There is data showing that thirty-one of thirty-one autistic individuals given this form of sensory stimulation experienced measurable and significant improvements over a wide range of their symptoms, including the critical issue of communication. Through this grant, the investigator tested this treatment systematically with a randomized controlled trial. The sole aim of this project was to assess the efficacy of this treatment using a randomized controlled trial for 8-10 year-old autistic individuals, with a follow-up period to assess the ongoing efficacy of the treatment.