Brain Scan

I wish I had another $3000 lying around to get one myself. It is very fascinating to see how the brain works. Typically when people go for a treatment they get two scans, one before treatment and then one after implementing some strategies. With Ezra this wasn’t really possible, because he had to be sedated and because he is so very young.

One of the reasons we had to fly to California is because Ezra could never hold still for 2 minutes, let alone 15 minutes of absolute stillness necessary for the scan. The California clinic is one of the few clinics that administers anesthesia. While talking to the doctor she explained that very few people do this kind of anesthesia, because it is very difficult to get them to sleep while still maintaining the brain function necessary to yield results for this specific scan. Thankfully all went well.

Ezra was injected with a radio isotope before the scan which travels through the blood stream into his brain and imprints on the brain showing the areas of activity. It was a bit funny, because they wanted to do a concentration test with him to see how the brain looks like when concentrating. The test consisted of him looking at the computer and hitting the space bar every time he saw a letter, except when the letter X popped up. He was really freaked out by the whole doctor’s office and people trying to put needles into him, so he couldn’t do the test at all. The only way I got him to calm down is by giving him my iPod and letting him listen to Wicked. It was slightly hilarious to me that we couldn’t explain the simple test to him, but that he knew how to scroll through the iPod interface and find the songs he wanted, which has at least five more steps in directions then just hitting the space bar.

Always so precious when asleep. I was very impressed by the clinic itself. This is Ezra in the wake up room. It had a comfortable couch, muted colors, a nice painting, and basically looked like a tidy home office in someone’s home. The staff explained that Dr.Amen wants his patients to be comfortable, and not frightened by a sterile, mechanical environment. The waiting room for kids too had a big bean bag, a TV with videos, games, and toys. I thought they did remarkably well.

The doctor gave us a picture of a typically developing 4-6 year old brain, and then showed us Ezra’s scan to compare. In the scan the brain functions have three colors: blue for medium activity, red for high activity, and white for extremely high activity. A typical brain is mostly blue throughout with a red part in the rear of the brain (cerebellum) that looks sort of like a bat seen from the top. Ezra however had several red centers throughout his brain, and some big white spots for extremely high activity. You might think that extremely high activity means he’s extra smart, or a high activity is good. It isn’t. It means the brain is overworking, which explains for example his repetitious behaviors, compulsions, and accounts for his ADHD. It also explains why he can’t sleep through the night and wakes up every day at 4 am. He can’t figure out how to rest. In the front part of his brain the ACG is lit up like an oval red disk the size of the thumb. If his ACG wasn’t so overactive he would be able to easily switch focus, and wouldn’t fixate on counting numbers and asking the same questions over and over. Another part that was overactive were his temporal lobes, which explains his temper tantrums, and anger outburst. The scan also showed that his cerebellum has problems analyzing sensory data which explains why he makes loud noises, jumps up and down etc. And finally there was some brain trauma evident probably from birth. The strategies he gave us to help all of these areas were:

1. Continue Son-Rise program. He was very impressed with how well Ezra was doing. Just looking at the scan he was surprised to see how functional he really was. He hadn’t expected that.
2. Continue with Gluten Casein Free Diet, find out the other food in-tolerances, and implement a higher protein, high vegetable diet.
3. 30 minutes a day of high aerobic exercise to boost blood flow in the brain
4. Take various supplements to help calm overactive areas
5. Do an interactive metronome therapy to help synchronize the brain halves (we can’t do that here in the Netherlands)
6. Get sensory integration therapy to help his brain learn how to process sensory information

Am I glad we got the scan? Yes, very much. I highly recommend it to anyone considering it. As of now we have not seen huge changes, but that is because its’ rather difficult to get an autistic child to eat what he doesn’t want to eat, and Ezra is a self-declared vegetarian who shuns all form of meat, and insists on potatoes, rice, pasta, and fruit. We also haven’t figured out how to get Ezra exercising aerobically, unless we get a dog, in which case he’s very motivated to run after doggy in the forest, but that means more work for me. We’re working on the sensory integration therapy, but haven’t yet found a therapist in the Netherlands who has time for us. The Son-Rise program is coming along now that we have some volunteers. I wish I could implement everything all at once, but I have to learn patience.

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