Neuroscience: Then and Now

When I fell out of that tree in 1964, special doctors called neurologists made sure everything was just fine with my brain.

A patient undergoes epilepsy monitoring at CHOC at Mission Hospital.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed watching how things have changed in the field of neuroscience, especially when it comes to epilepsy treatment.

Epilepsy is a relatively common condition that causes the body to produce seizures. In the 1960s, children with epilepsy relied solely on medication to limit seizures.

Today, we have a variety of treatment options. Children may still rely on medication, but also great advancements have come in epilepsy surgery. Other options include a special diet or a technique called Vagus Nerve Stimulation that sends small pulses of energy to the brain from a large nerve in the neck.

We also have new technology and techniques to learn more about a patient’s seizures. Epilepsy monitoring units help patients undergo intensive neuro-diagnostic monitoring around the clock to pinpoint where and why a patient experiences a seizure.

No matter the treatment method, kids with epilepsy are in great hands and have bright futures thanks to CHOC and its Neuroscience Institute.


CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute specializes in bringing hope to patients and their families living with complex neurological disorders. The largest and most comprehensive neuroscience center in the region, the institute has clinical and support staff who are specifically trained in the care of children. The institute offers an extensive baclofen pump program; serves as the only regional, dedicated pediatric neuroscience inpatient unit; and is one a handful of epilepsy programs in the country that provides continuous care for infants through adolescents.

Learn more about CHOC’s Neuroscience Institute.

Autism Resources Grow to Meet the Needs of OC Children

Autism continues to be one of the most prevalent topics in our community. While autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not new, more children than ever are classified as autistic, partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. While there is no cure for autism, research shows that early diagnosis and intervention improve chances that the child will benefit from treatment.Check out the Q&A below to learn more about this unique condition, and where you and your family can go for support and treatment.

What is autism and how common is it?
According to Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Currently, one in 88 children is estimated to be on the autism spectrum.

Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.

What are the signs of autism?
The following red flags may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder.

•No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by 6 months or thereafter
•No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
•No babbling by 12 months
•No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
•No words by 16 months
•No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
•Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age

If your child exhibits any of the above signs, please don’t delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation.

How is autism diagnosed?
If you are concerned your child is at risk for autism, please speak with your physician. He/she may recommend setting up an appointment with a specialist, who can evaluate your child.

Where can Orange County families go for treatment?
In partnership with UC Irvine, Chapman University College of Educational Studies and CHOC Children’s,  The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders (formerly For OC Kids) is a leader in education, assessment, diagnosis and care coordination for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. In a first-of-its-kind public/private partnership, the Thompson Family Foundation and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County in 2012 provided $14.8 million to create a new vision, led by Dr. Joseph Donnelly, pediatric neurologist and director of The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders. This investment allowed The Center to expand from a medical focus to a multi-disciplinary practice, offering a full range of treatment services.

What types of treatment does The Center offer?
The Center offers a complete range of high-quality diagnostic and treatment services to children, adolescents and young adults from birth to age 22, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), social skills classes, psychology, psychiatry, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and a wellness program. It strives to serve all children and families, and accepts most types of insurance.

What types of resources does The Center offer for parents?
The Center offers a multitude of parent education classes and support groups, including monthly technology workshops, individualized education program (IEP) planning seminars, and an autism education series. Additionally, The Center is home to F.A.S.T. (Families and Schools Together), a unique program designed to build bridges with schools and help parents navigate the educational system.

The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders is located at 2500 Red Hill Ave, in Santa Ana. For more information, please call 949-267-0400 or visit

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October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

At CHOC Children’s, there are hundreds of stories of the beautiful and courageous children with Down Syndrome that touch our lives every day.

There are many ways to commemorate National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, including sharing your own story of a loved one who has this condition and the special role they’ve played in your life. You can also organize an event, donate books about Down Syndrome to your local school, or learn more about Down Syndrome and share it with others.

To learn more about CHOC’s Down Syndrome program, helping to meet this patient population’s wide range of needs through comprehensive specialty care, please click here: