Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism

Date:
September 30, 2011
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Researchers are examining the use of propranolol (a drug used to treat high blood pressure and control heart rate as well as to reduce test anxiety) to improve the primary traits associated with autism -- difficulty with normal social skills, language and repetitive behaviors. Researchers say the drug is a promising new avenue for improving language and social function.

Most drug therapy interventions for people with autism have targeted psychiatric problems, including aggression, anxiety and obsessive behavior. Now, University of Missouri researchers are examining the use of propranolol (a drug used to treat high blood pressure and control heart rate as well as to reduce test anxiety) to improve the primary traits associated with autism -- difficulty with normal social skills, language and repetitive behaviors. MU researchers say the drug is a promising new avenue for improving language and social function.

"We can clearly say that propranolol has the potential to benefit language and may help people with autism function appropriately in social situations, including making eye contact with others," said David Beversdorf, associate professor and Thompson Endowed Chair at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. "Enhancing both language and social function is significant because those are two of the three main features of autism. Clinical trials will assess the drug's effect on all three features, including repetitive behaviors."

Propranolol has been used for decades with minimal side effects reported in healthy individuals. The MU researchers are the first to study the benefits of the drug in autism in a controlled manner. The next step is to conduct clinical trials to determine if the benefits are sustained over time and if the benefits outweigh other effects.

Propranolol acts by reducing the effect of norepinephrine brought on by stress in order to allow the brain to function as if there is no stress. This is beneficial for persons who have trouble with test taking. In people with autism, the brain is hardwired in a different way, making processing more rigid in terms of social function and language. The researchers think that the drug acts on these hardwired processes and therefore, improves tasks and functioning in these areas.

"When healthy persons are under stress their neurons fire in an expedited manner, to respond quickly to the stressor, that does not allow input from remote sources," Beversdorf said. "Unfortunately when trying to solve difficult problems, we need information from remote sources. For example, if we come in contact with a tiger, we are programmed to respond quickly and run away. However, this fight or flight response isn't as helpful in today's society because instead of facing a tiger, we are taking an exam or giving a speech. Evidence suggests that individuals with autism have a similar difficulty accessing input from remote sources regardless of the presence of stress when using language and communicating."

In previous studies, the researchers found that propranolol helped people with autism solve simple anagrams, word unscrambling tasks. It also increased semantic word fluency, which requires understanding the definition of words and connectivity among different brain regions. It did not help with letter fluency, which involves identifying words that start with specific letters and requires less distributed connectivity among brain regions.

"We are interested to see if we can predict who will or will not respond to this drug among those with autism," Beversdorf said. "In the follow-up study, we're looking at markers of increased stress reactivity. If we find that those with higher stress reactivity are more sensitive to the effects of propranolol, it might help to identify who will benefit most from the drug."

Beversdorf is a physician and faculty member at MU in the departments of Radiology, Neurology and Psychological Sciences. The study, "Effect of Propranolol on Word Fluency in Autism," was published in Cognitive and Behavior Neurology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Q. Beversdorf, Sanjida Saklayen, Katherine F. Higgins, Kimberly E. Bodner, Stephen M. Kanne, Shawn E. Christ. Effect of Propranolol on Word Fluency in Autism. Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, 2011; 24 (1): 11 DOI: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e318204d20e

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152058.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2011, September 30). Promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152058.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Promising drug treatment for improving language, social function in people with autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152058.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins