About the study

This clinical trial, or research study, aims to determine whether TMS is a safe and effective intervention in autism.

Participants will be individuals aged between 14-40 years who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There will be 150 participants in total. Participants can take part in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne (recruitment completed), Adelaide, or Perth.

Participants in this study will undergo 20 sessions of TMS. In this study we apply TMS to a region of the brain called the right temporoparietal junction, or rTPJ. The rTPJ is a part of the brain that is involved in social understanding and social communication.

Some participants will receive the real form of TMS, while others will receive a sham or placebo form. The sham or placebo form mimics the feeling of TMS, but no brain stimulation is delivered. Participants will not know which one they receive until the end of their involvement in the study. Those who received the sham or placebo form will be given the opportunity to undergo the real TMS treatment at the end of their involvement in the study.

To determine whether TMS is safe and effective, participants in the study will also complete seven assessment sessions (approximately two hours per sessions) across eight months. This includes three sessions in the weeks before TMS and five sessions in the months following TMS. These assessments involve questionnaires, computerised “cognitive” tasks, and interviews. All participants will also undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan, two electroencephalography (EEG) sessions (measuring the brain’s electrical activity via sensors on the scalp), and two saliva collections for genetic analysis.

TMS is an experimental intervention in ASD. This means that it is not an approved treatment for ASD in Australia or elsewhere.