Switched On

Switched On: a memoir of brain change, emotional awakening, and the emerging science of neurostimulation
By John Elder Robison
Reviewed by Julie


Robison is the bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye (2007) where he writes about his life and how, as an adult, he was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Switched On is a follow up book but this time Robison talks about his life post diagnosis and tells of his experiences with an experimental treatment called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This is a technology that pulses low level electricity into the brain from a coil applied to the outside of the skull. TMS is not new as it is has already been approved for the treatment of depression and migraine. However, its application on people on the Autism Spectrum is new and has been pioneered by Harvard Medical School and in Australia by Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre.

Robison’s story is about how this treatment came to awaken the dormant pathways inside his mind as he describes the awakening of his emotions after each short treatment. He writes “for the first time in my life, I learned what it was like to truly ‘know’ other people’s feelings. It was as if . . . suddenly I could see everything”. Although the subject of this book is cutting edge neuroscience Robison’s excellent storytelling makes this an enjoyable and easy read. I highly recommend this book.

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