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1.  Divalproex Sodium vs Placebo for the Treatment of Irritability in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2009;35(4):990-998.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social and language deficits and by repetitive behaviors and interests. Irritability/aggression is a significant comorbid symptom in this population, which greatly impacts burden of care. This study examined the effect of divalproex sodium for irritability/aggression in children and adolescents with ASD. This was a 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. All efficacy measures were obtained by an independent evaluator blinded to randomization condition and side effects. A total of 55 subjects gavetheir consent and 27 were randomized in a 1 : 1 manner (mean age 9.46±2.46, mean nonverbal IQ 63.3±23.9). Two subjects from the active group and one subject from the placebo group discontinued the study because of either a lack of efficacy or side effects (increased irritability). Primary outcome measures were Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Irritability subscale and Clinical Global Impression-Improvement, which focused on irritability. Overall, 62.5% of divalproex subjects vs 9% of placebo subjects were responders (CGI-irritability OR: 16.7, Fisher's exact p=0.008). A statistically significant improvement was also noted on the ABC-Irritability subscale (p=0.048). There was a trend for responders to have higher valproate blood levels compared with nonresponders. This study suggests the efficacy of divalproex for the treatment of irritability in children and adolescents with ASD. Larger sample follow-up studies are warranted.
doi:10.1038/npp.2009.202
PMCID: PMC2846602  PMID: 20010551
ASD; irritability; divalproex; children; adolescents; Development/Developmental Disorders; Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Psychopharmacology; Clinical Pharmacology/Trials; autism; adolescents; children; EEG; divalproex
2.  A randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical trial of N-Acetylcysteine added to risperidone for treating autistic disorders 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:196.
Background
This study examined the efficacy and safety of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) augmentation for treating irritability in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Method
Forty children and adolescents met diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-IV. They were randomly allocated into one of the two groups of NAC (1200 mg/day)+risperidone or placebo+risperidone. NAC and placebo were administered in the form of effervescent and in two divided doses for 8 weeks. Irritability subscale score of Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) was considered as the main outcome measure. Adverse effects were also checked.
Results
The mean score of irritability in the NAC+risperidone and placebo+risperidone groups at baseline was 13.2(5.3) and 16.7(7.8), respectively. The scores after 8 weeks were 9.7(4.1) and 15.1(7.8), respectively. Repeated measures of ANOVA showed that there was a significant difference between the two groups after 8 weeks. The most common adverse effects in the NAC+risperidone group were constipation (16.1%), increased appetite (16.1%), fatigue (12.9%), nervousness (12.9%), and daytime drowsiness (12.9%). There was no fatal adverse effect.
Conclusions
Risperidone plus NAC more than risperidone plus placebo decreased irritability in children and adolescents with ASD. Meanwhile, it did not change the core symptoms of autism. Adverse effects were not common and NAC was generally tolerated well.
Trial registration
This trial was registered at http://www.irct.ir. The registration number of this trial was IRCT201106103930N6
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-196
PMCID: PMC3737121  PMID: 23886027
Autism; Clinical trial; Randomized; Therapy; N-acetylcysteine; Oxidative stress
3.  Beyond Autism: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study of High-Risk Children at Three Years of Age 
Objective
First-degree relatives of persons with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk for ASD-related characteristics. As little is known about the early expression of these characteristics, this study characterizes the non-ASD outcomes of 3-year-old high-risk (HR) siblings of children with ASD.
Method
Two groups of children without ASD participated: 507 HR siblings and 324 low-risk (LR) control subjects (no known relatives with ASD). Children were enrolled at a mean age of 8 months, and outcomes were assessed at 3 years. Outcome measures were Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) calibrated severity scores, and Mullen Verbal and Non-Verbal Developmental Quotients (DQ).
Results
At 3 years, HR siblings without an ASD outcome exhibited higher mean ADOS severity scores and lower verbal and non-verbal DQs than LR controls. HR siblings were over-represented (21% HR versus 7% LR) in latent classes characterized by elevated ADOS severity and/or low to low-average DQs. The remaining HR siblings without ASD outcomes (79%) belonged to classes in which they were not differentially represented with respect to LR siblings.
Conclusions
Having removed a previously identified 18.7% of HR siblings with ASD outcomes from all analyses, HR siblings nevertheless exhibited higher mean levels of ASD severity and lower levels of developmental functioning than LR children. However, the latent class membership of four-fifths of the HR siblings was not significantly different from that of LR control subjects. One-fifth of HR siblings belonged to classes characterized by higher ASD severity and/or lower levels of developmental functioning. This empirically derived characterization of an early-emerging pattern of difficulties in a minority of 3-year-old HR siblings suggests the importance of developmental surveillance and early intervention for these children.
doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2012.12.011
PMCID: PMC3625370  PMID: 23452686
ASD; high-risk siblings; outcome; broad autism phenotype
4.  A Pharmacogenetic Study of Escitalopram in Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Scientific Abstract
Objective
To determine the effect of serotonin transporter polymorphism promoter region (5-HTTPLR) genotypic variation (low, intermediate, and high expression groups) on response to escitalopram treatment of children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Method
The study used a forced titration, open label design, with genotype blind until study completion. Participants were children and adolescents aged 4 to 17 years of age with a confirmed ASD (Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified).
Results
There was an interaction between genotype group and time on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist Irritability Subscale (primary outcome variable) (linear MMLE = −4.84, Z = −2.89, SE = 1.67, p = 0.004). Examination of baseline to last-observation carried forward scores revealed that a genotype grouping based on a previous study of platelet 5-HT uptake revealed less response in the genotype group that had S/S genotype for 5-HTTLPR and did not have a diplotype in intron 1 previously shown to be associated with increased platelet 5-HT uptake.
Conclusion
This genotype-blind, prospective pharmacogenetic study found the group of subjects with associated with the lowest platelet 5-HT uptake from previous study had the smallest reduction in ABC-Irritability scores after open label treatment with escitalopram. Replication is necessary to confirm these findings.
Lay Abstract
Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorders have problems with anxiety, obsessions, compulsions, and insisting that things stay the same. When other interventions are not adequately helping the child deal with these difficulties, sometimes medication is considered a treatment option.
Serotonin is inactivated when it is taken back into nerve cells by a protein called the serotonin transporter. Escitalopram blocks this protein. We wanted to know if variation in the gene that produces the protein target for escitalopram would be related to response to this treatment.
doi:10.1002/aur.109
PMCID: PMC2937270  PMID: 20020537
autistic disorder; escitalopram; pharmacogenetics; open label; drug treatment
5.  Pharmacologic treatments for the behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders across the lifespan 
This review outlines pharmacologic treatments for the behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in children, adolescents, and adults. Symptom domains include repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, irritability and aggression, hyperactivity and inattention, and social impairment. Medications covered include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs), mirtazapine, antipsychotics, psychostimulants, atomoxetine, α-2 agonists, D-cycloserine, and memantine. Overall, SRIs are less efficacious and more poorly tolerated in children with ASDs than in adults. Antipsychotics are the most efficacious drugs for the treatment of irritability in ASDs, and may be useful in the treatment of other symptoms. Psychostimulants demonstrate some benefit for the treatment of hyperactivity and inattention in individuals with ASDs, but are less efficacious and associated with more adverse effects compared with individuals with ADHD. D-cycloserine and memantine appear helpful in the treatment of social impairment, although further research is needed.
PMCID: PMC3513681  PMID: 23226952
autism; autism spectrum disorder; autistic disorder; pervasive developmental disorder; treatment
6.  Safety and Efficacy of Donepezil in Children and Adolescents with Autism: Neuropsychological Measures 
Abstract
Objective
There has been recent interest in the use of cognitive enhancing drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, as a possible treatment for executive functioning (EF) deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The goal of this study was to assess the tolerability, safety, and efficacy of donepezil on EF in a sample of children and adolescents with ASD.
Method
Thirty-four children and adolescents with ASD (age range 8–17 years; IQ >75) were enrolled in a 10-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of donepezil (doses of 5 and 10 mg), followed by a 10-week open label trial for placebo nonresponders.
Results
The effect of donepezil treatment on EF was examined. Despite improvement on a number of EF measures, no statistically significant between-group differences were found (with gains observed for both the placebo and donepezil groups).
Conclusions
The results suggest that short-term treatment with donepezil may have limited impact on cognitive functioning in ASD. Future controlled trials may need to consider a longer treatment period to detect significant gains on EF measures.
doi:10.1089/cap.2010.0024
PMCID: PMC3037196  PMID: 21309696
7.  Co-morbid Disruptive Behavior Disorder and Aggression Predict Functional Outcomes and Differential Response to Risperidone Versus Divalproex in Pharmacotherapy for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder 
Abstract
Objective
Co-morbid diagnoses, such as disruptive behavior disorders (DBDs) and high levels of aggression, are extremely common among youth with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) and may interfere with treatment response; however, they have rarely been examined as predictors of response to pharmacotherapy. The current study examines co-morbid DBD and aggression prospectively as predictors of pharmacotherapy outcome, as well as potential moderators of response to a specific medication (risperidone vs. divalproex), among children with PBD.
Methods
Data are from a prospective 6-week double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized outpatient medication treatment trial of risperidone versus divalproex for manic episodes in 65 children 8–18 with PBD. Outcome measures were administered at pretest, post-test, and weekly during the 6 weeks of treatment. Mixed-effects regression models were used to examine pharmacotherapy response.
Results
Results indicated that youth with co-morbid DBD experienced greater improvement in manic symptoms in response to risperidone versus divalproex, whereas youth with non-co-morbid DBD experienced similar trajectories of symptom improvement in both medication groups. In addition, the non-DBD group experienced greater improvement in global functioning over time as compared with youth with co-morbid-DBD, and this gap increased over the course of treatment. Results also indicated that high-aggression youth experienced worse global functioning by end treatment versus low-aggression youth.
Conclusions
In conclusion, a co-morbid diagnosis of DBD and/or high levels of aggressive symptoms in youth with PBD may be important clinical predictors of variation in treatment response to pharmacotherapy. These findings may help researchers and clinicians develop tailored treatment approaches that optimize symptom and functional outcomes.
doi:10.1089/cap.2010.0140
PMCID: PMC3243464  PMID: 22136096
8.  Double-Blind Randomized Trial of Risperidone versus Divalproex in Pediatric Bipolar Disorder 
Bipolar disorders  2010;12(6):593-605.
Objective
To determine the relative effects of risperidone and divalproex in pediatric mania.
Methods
This is a double-blind randomized outpatient clinical trial with 66 children and adolescents (mean age=10.9± 3.3 years; age range = 8 to 18 years) with mania who were randomly assigned to either risperidone (0.5–2 mg/day, n = 33) or divalproex (60–120 μg/ml, n = 33) for a 6-week period. Measures included the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and Child Depression Rating Scale- Revised (CDRS-R).
Results
Mixed-effects regression models, with interaction between time and the active drug as predictors, found that the risperidone group had more rapid improvement than the divalproex group (p<0.05), although final scores did not differ significantly between groups. Mixed models using only those subjects who completed the 6-week study found similar results. The response rate on YMRS was 78.1% for risperidone and 45.5% for divalproex (p<.01). The remission rate for risperidone was 62.5%, compared with 33.3% for divalproex (p<.05). Improvement on the CDRS-R was significantly higher for the risperidone group relative to the divalproex group (p < .05). There were no significant differences between groups in safety, but subject retention was significantly higher at study endpoint in the risperidone group (p<0.01). Drop out rate was 24% in risperidone group and 48% in divalproex group, with increased irritability being the most common reason for drop out in the latter. There was no significant weight gain in either group.
Conclusion
Results suggest that risperidone was associated with more rapid improvement and greater reduction in manic symptoms compared to divalproex. Although the results suggest that both drugs are safe, risperidone’s lower attrition rate and lower rate of adverse events may suggest better toleration. Clinical trials with larger samples are required to confirm these preliminary findings.
doi:10.1111/j.1399-5618.2010.00850.x
PMCID: PMC3013630  PMID: 20868458
Risperidone; divalproex; mania; bipolar; double- blind; randomized
9.  Intranasal oxytocin versus placebo in the treatment of adults with autism spectrum disorders: a randomized controlled trial 
Molecular Autism  2012;3:16.
Background
There are no effective medications for the treatment of social cognition/function deficits in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and adult intervention literature in this area is sparse. Emerging data from animal models and genetic association studies as well as early, single-dose intervention studies suggest that the oxytocin system may be a potential therapeutic target for social cognition/function deficits in ASD. The primary aim of this study was to examine the safety/therapeutic effects of intranasal oxytocin versus placebo in adults with ASD, with respect to the two core symptom domains of social cognition/functioning and repetitive behaviors.
Methods
This was a pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design trial of intranasal oxytocin versus placebo in 19 adults with ASD (16 males; 33.20 ± 13.29 years). Subjects were randomized to 24 IU intranasal oxytocin or placebo in the morning and afternoon for 6 weeks. Measures of social function/cognition (the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy) and repetitive behaviors (Repetitive Behavior Scale Revised) were administered. Secondary measures included the Social Responsiveness Scale, Reading-the-Mind-in-the-Eyes Test and the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale – compulsion subscale and quality of life (World Health Organization Quality of Life Questionnaire – emotional/social subscales). Full-information maximum-likelihood parameter estimates were obtained and tested using mixed-effects regression analyses.
Results
Although no significant changes were detected in the primary outcome measures after correcting for baseline differences, results suggested improvements after 6 weeks in measures of social cognition (Reading-the-Mind-in-the-Eyes Test, p = 0.002, d = 1.2), and quality of life (World Health Organization Quality of Life Questionnaire – emotion, p = 0.031, d = 0.84), both secondary measures. Oxytocin was well tolerated and no serious adverse effects were reported.
Conclusions
This pilot study suggests that there is therapeutic potential to daily administration of intranasal oxytocin in adults with ASD and that larger and longer studies are warranted.
Trial registration
NCT00490802
doi:10.1186/2040-2392-3-16
PMCID: PMC3539865  PMID: 23216716
Autism; Adults; Oxytocin; Clinical trial; Social cognition
10.  A Randomized Controlled Trial of Risperidone, Lithium, or Divalproex Sodium for Initial Treatment of Bipolar I Disorder, Manic or Mixed Phase, in Children and Adolescents 
Archives of general psychiatry  2012;69(5):515-528.
Context
There was a paucity of comparative pharmacological research for initial treatment of bipolar I disorder, manic or mixed phase, in children and adolescents.
Objective
To investigate which medication to administer first to antimanic medication-naive subjects.
Design, Setting, and Participants
The Treatment of Early Age Mania (TEAM) study recruited 6- to 15-year-old children and adolescents with DSM-IV bipolar I disorder (manic or mixed phase) at 5 US sites from 2003 to 2008 into a controlled, randomized, no-patient-choice, 8-week protocol. Blinded, independent evaluators conducted all baseline and end-point assessments.
Interventions
Subjects received a titrated schedule of lithium, divalproex sodium, or risperidone. Medications were increased weekly only if there was inadequate response, and no dose-limiting adverse effects, to maximum doses of lithium carbonate (1.1-1.3 mEq/L), divalproex sodium (111-125 μg/mL), and risperidone (4-6 mg).
Main Outcome Measures
Primary outcome measures were the Clinical Global Impressions for Bipolar Illness Improvement-Mania and the Modified Side Effects Form for Children and Adolescents.
Results
There were 279 antimanic medication-naive subjects (mean [SD] age, 10.1 [2.8] years; 50.2% female) who had the following characteristics: 100% elated mood and/or grandiosity, 77.1% psychosis, 97.5% mixed mania, 99.3% daily rapid cycling, and mean (SD) mania duration of 4.9 (2.5) years. The mean (SD) titrated lithium level was 1.09 (0.34) mEq/L, and the mean (SD) divalproex sodium level was 113.6 (23.0) μg/mL. The mean (SD) titrated risperidone dose was 2.57 (1.21) mg. Higher response rates occurred with risperidone vs lithium (68.5% vs 35.6%; χ21=16.9, P<.001) and vs divalproex sodium (68.5% vs 24.0%; χ21=28.3, P<.001). Response to lithium vs divalproex sodium did not differ. The discontinuation rate was higher for lithium than for risperidone (χ21=6.4, P=.011). Increased weight gain, body mass index, and prolactin level occurred with risperidone vs lithium (F1,212=45.5, P<.001; F1,212=39.1, P<.001; and F1,213=191.4, P<.001, respectively) and vs divalproex sodium (F1,212=34.7, P<.001; F1,212=45.3, P<.001; and F1,213=209.4, P<.001, respectively). The thyrotropin level increased in subjects taking lithium (t62=11.3, P<.001).
Conclusions
Risperidone was more efficacious than lithium or divalproex sodium for the initial treatment of childhood mania but had potentially serious metabolic effects.
Trial Registration
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00057681
doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.1508
PMCID: PMC3581342  PMID: 22213771
11.  Adjunctive Divalproex Versus Placebo for Children With ADHD and Aggression Refractory to Stimulant Monotherapy 
The American journal of psychiatry  2009;166(12):1392-1401.
Objective
The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of divalproex for reducing aggressive behavior among children 6 to 13 years old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a disruptive disorder whose chronic aggression was underresponsive to a prospective psychostimulant trial.
Method
Children received open stimulant treatment during a lead-in phase that averaged 5 weeks. Agent and dose were assessed weekly and modified to optimize response. Children whose aggressive behavior persisted at the conclusion of the lead-in phase were randomly assigned to receive double-blind, flexibly dosed divalproex or a placebo adjunctive to stimulant for 8 weeks. Families received weekly behavioral therapy throughout the trial. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of children whose aggressive behavior remitted, defined by post-trial ratings of negligible or absent aggression.
Result
A significantly higher proportion of children randomly assigned to divalproex met remission criteria (eight out of 14 [57%]) than those randomly assigned to placebo (two out of 13 [15%]). Divalproex was generally well tolerated.
Conclusions
Among children with ADHD whose chronic aggressive behavior is refractory to optimized stimulant treatment, the addition of divalproex increases the likelihood that aggression will remit. A larger trial is necessary to specify with greater precision the magnitude of benefit for adjuvant divalproex.
doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09020233
PMCID: PMC2940237  PMID: 19884222
12.  What’s in the pipeline? Drugs in development for autism spectrum disorder 
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with both core symptoms and associated symptoms (eg, irritability, aggression, and comorbidities) that affect both the individual and the family/systems around them. There have been recent advances in the understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of ASD pertaining to genetics, epigenetics, neurological, hormonal, and environmental factors that contribute to the difficulties found in individuals with ASD. With this improved understanding, there has been a shift in the application of psychopharmacology in ASD and its related disorders. A literature review was conducted to examine research published in the last 5 years between different classes of psychotropic medications and ASD. The broad scope of the existing literature for the use of conventional medications is summarized and novel medications are discussed.
doi:10.2147/NDT.S39516
PMCID: PMC3934669  PMID: 24591832
pharmacology; treatment; autism; Asperger’s syndrome; medication
13.  A 6-Month, Double-Blind, Maintenance Trial of Lithium Monotherapy Versus the Combination of Lithium and Divalproex for Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse or Dependence 
Objective
To assess whether combination treatment with lithium and divalproex is more effective than lithium monotherapy in prolonging the time to mood episode recurrence in patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder (RCBD) and comorbid substance abuse and/or dependence.
Method
A 6-month, double-blind, parallel group comparison was carried out in recently manic/hypomanic/mixed patients who had demonstrated a persistent bimodal response to combined treatment with lithium and divalproex. Subjects were randomly assigned to remain on combination treatment or to discontinue divalproex and remain on lithium monotherapy.
Results
Of 149 patients enrolled into the open-label acute stabilization phase, 79% discontinued prematurely (poor adherence: 42%; nonresponse: 25%; intolerable side effects: 10%). Of 31 patients (21%) randomly assigned to double-blind maintenance treatment, 55% relapsed (24% into depression and 76% into a manic/hypomanic/mixed episode), 26% completed the study, and 19% were poorly adherent or exited prematurely. The median time to recurrence of a new mood episode was 15.9 weeks for patients receiving lithium monotherapy and 17.8 weeks for patients receiving the combination of lithium and divalproex (p=NS). The rate of relapse into a mood episode for those receiving lithium monotherapy or the combination of lithium and divalproex was 56% and 53%, respectively. The rate of depressive relapse in both arms was 13%, while the rate of relapse into a manic, hypomanic, or mixed episode was 44% for lithium monotherapy and 40% for the combination of lithium and divalproex.
Conclusion
A small subgroup of patients in this study stabilized after six months of treatment with lithium plus divalproex. Of those who did, the addition of divalproex to lithium conferred no additional prophylactic benefit over lithium alone. Although depression is regarded as the hallmark of RCBD in general, these data suggest that recurrent episodes of mania tend to be more common in presentations accompanied by comorbid substance use.
PMCID: PMC3587136  PMID: 19192457
Bipolar disorder; Rapid cycling; Dual-diagnosis; Substance use disorder; Maintenance trial; Placebo-controlled trial; Lithium; Divalproex; Combination pharmacotherapy
14.  Changes in Maladaptive Behaviors from Mid-Childhood to Young Adulthood in Autism Spectrum Disorder 
The current study prospectively examined trajectories of change in symptoms of irritability, hyperactivity, and social withdrawal, as well as predictors of such behaviors from age 9 to 18 for youths with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a comparison group with nonspectrum developmental delays. Children with more severe core features of autism had consistently higher irritability and hyperactivity scores over time than those with broader ASD and nonspectrum delays. Across all diagnoses, behaviors related to hyperactivity showed the greatest improvement. Social withdrawal worsened with age for a substantial proportion of youths with ASD but not for the nonspectrum comparison group. Compared with nonspectrum youths, children with ASD showed greater heterogeneity in trajectories for maladaptive behaviors.
doi:10.1352/1944-7558-116.5.381
PMCID: PMC3185304  PMID: 21905806
15.  Neurotensin is increased in serum of young children with autistic disorder 
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in early childhood. They are associated with a set of "core symptoms" that include disabilities in social interaction skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as repetitive and stereotypic behaviors. There is no definite pathogenetic mechanism or diagnostic tests. Many children with ASD also have "allergic-like" symptoms, but test negative implying mast cell activation by non-allergic triggers. We measured by Milliplex arrays serum levels of 3 neuropeptides that could stimulate mast cells in children with autistic disorder (n = 19; 16 males and 3 females; mean age 3.0 ± 0.4 years) and healthy, unrelated controls (n = 16; 13 males and 3 females; mean age 3 ± 1.2 years). Only neurotensin (NT) was significantly increased from 60.5 ± 6.0 pg/ml in controls to 105.6 ± 12.4 pg/ml in autistic disorder (p = 0.004). There was no statistically significant difference in the serum levels of β-endorphin or substance P (SP). NT could stimulate immune cells, especially mast cells, and/or have direct effects on brain inflammation and ASD.
doi:10.1186/1742-2094-7-48
PMCID: PMC2936302  PMID: 20731814
16.  Autism-Associated Gene Expression in Peripheral Leucocytes Commonly Observed between Subjects with Autism and Healthy Women Having Autistic Children 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24723.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder which has complex pathobiology with profound influences of genetic factors in its development. Although the numerous autism susceptible genes were identified, the etiology of autism is not fully explained. Using DNA microarray, we examined gene expression profiling in peripheral blood from 21 individuals in each of the four groups; young adults with ASD, age- and gender-matched healthy subjects (ASD control), healthy mothers having children with ASD (asdMO), and asdMO control. There was no blood relationship between ASD and asdMO. Comparing the ASD group with control, 19 genes were found to be significantly changed. These genes were mainly involved in cell morphology, cellular assembly and organization, and nerve system development and function. In addition, the asdMO group possessed a unique gene expression signature shown as significant alterations of protein synthesis despite of their nonautistic diagnostic status. Moreover, an ASD-associated gene expression signature was commonly observed in both individuals with ASD and asdMO. This unique gene expression profiling detected in peripheral leukocytes from affected subjects with ASD and unaffected mothers having ASD children suggest that a genetic predisposition to ASD may be detectable even in peripheral cells. Altered expression of several autism candidate genes such as FMR-1 and MECP2, could be detected in leukocytes. Taken together, these findings suggest that the ASD-associated genes identified in leukocytes are informative to explore the genetic, epigenetic, and environmental background of ASD and might become potential tools to assess the crucial factors related to the clinical onset of the disorder.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024723
PMCID: PMC3174190  PMID: 21935445
17.  Common genetic variants on 5p14.1 associate with autism spectrum disorders 
Nature  2009;459(7246):528-533.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) represent a group of childhood neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by deficits in verbal communication, impairment of social interaction, and restricted and repetitive patterns of interests and behaviour. To identify common genetic risk factors underlying ASDs, here we present the results of genome-wide association studies on a cohort of 780 families (3,101 subjects) with affected children, and a second cohort of 1,204 affected subjects and 6,491 control subjects, all of whom were of European ancestry. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms between cadherin 10 (CDH10) and cadherin 9 (CDH9)—two genes encoding neuronal cell-adhesion molecules—revealed strong association signals, with the most significant SNP being rs4307059 (P = 3.4 × 10−8, odds ratio = 1.19). These signals were replicated in two independent cohorts, with combined P values ranging from 7.4 × 10−8 to 2.1 × 10−10. Our results implicate neuronal cell-adhesion molecules in the pathogenesis of ASDs, and represent, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of genome-wide significant association of common variants with susceptibility to ASDs.
doi:10.1038/nature07999
PMCID: PMC2943511  PMID: 19404256
18.  Chronic divalproex sodium use and brain atrophy in Alzheimer disease 
Neurology  2011;77(13):1263-1271.
Objective:
We evaluated the effect of the divalproex sodium formulation of valproic acid on brain volumes using MRI in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD) and assessed for changes associated with behavioral and cognitive effects.
Methods:
Eighty-nine of 313 participants randomized to divalproex or placebo in a 24-month, parallel-group trial received MRI scans at baseline and 12 months. Interval MRI annual percent changes in whole brain, ventricular, and hippocampal volumes were the primary outcomes of interest. Change from baseline in clinical outcomes was assessed at 6-month intervals.
Results:
There were no baseline differences between active treatment and placebo groups in age, education, brain volumes, clinical rating scores, or APOE ϵ4 carrier status. The group treated with divalproex showed a greater rate of decline in left and right hippocampal and brain volumes (−10.9% and −12.4% vs −5.6% and −6.3%, and −3.5% vs −1.4%, respectively), and a greater rate of ventricular expansion (24.5% vs 9.9%) (p < 0.001). Mini-Mental State Examination scores showed a more rapid decline with divalproex through month 12 (placebo = −2.0 ± 4.3, divalproex = −3.9 ± 4.0) (p = 0.037), although there were no changes on other cognitive, behavioral, or functional ratings at 12 and 24 months.
Conclusions:
Divalproex treatment was associated with accelerated brain volume loss over 1 year and perhaps with greater cognitive impairment. The long-term clinical effects of these changes are not known.
doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318230a16c
PMCID: PMC3179645  PMID: 21917762
19.  Cognitive Effects of Risperidone in Children with Autism and Irritable Behavior 
Abstract
Objective
The objective of this research was to explore the effects of risperidone on cognitive processes in children with autism and irritable behavior.
Method
Thirty-eight children, ages 5–17 years with autism and severe behavioral disturbance, were randomly assigned to risperidone (0.5 to 3.5 mg/day) or placebo for 8 weeks. This sample of 38 was a subset of 101 subjects who participated in the clinical trial; 63 were unable to perform the cognitive tasks. A double-blind placebo-controlled parallel groups design was used. Dependent measures included tests of sustained attention, verbal learning, hand-eye coordination, and spatial memory assessed before, during, and after the 8-week treatment. Changes in performance were compared by repeated measures ANOVA.
Results
Twenty-nine boys and 9 girls with autism and severe behavioral disturbance and a mental age ≥18 months completed the cognitive part of the study. No decline in performance occurred with risperidone. Performance on a cancellation task (number of correct detections) and a verbal learning task (word recognition) was better on risperidone than on placebo (without correction for multiplicity). Equivocal improvement also occurred on a spatial memory task. There were no significant differences between treatment conditions on the Purdue Pegboard (hand-eye coordination) task or the Analog Classroom Task (timed math test).
Conclusion
Risperidone given to children with autism at doses up to 3.5 mg for up to 8 weeks appears to have no detrimental effect on cognitive performance.
doi:10.1089/cap.2007.0133
PMCID: PMC2935828  PMID: 18582177
20.  A cognitive-behavioral intervention for emotion regulation in adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2013;14:231.
Background
Adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulties in social communication; thus, these individuals have trouble understanding the mental states of others. Recent research also suggests that adults with ASD are unable to understand their own mental states, which could lead to difficulties in emotion-regulation. Some studies have reported the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in improving emotion-regulation among children with ASD. The current study will investigate the efficacy of group-based CBT for adults with ASD.
Methods/Design
The study is a randomized, waitlist controlled, single-blinded trial. The participants will be 60 adults with ASD; 30 will be assigned to a CBT group and 30 to a waitlist control group. Primary outcome measures are the 20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale, the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations, the Motion Picture Mind-Reading task, and an ASD questionnaire. The secondary outcome measures are the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, the World Health Organization Quality of Life Scale 26-item version, the Global Assessment of Functioning, State-trait Anxiety Inventory, Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory, and Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. All will be administered during the pre- and post-intervention, and 12 week follow-up periods. The CBT group will receive group therapy over an 8 week period (one session per week) with each session lasting approximately 100 minutes. Group therapy will consist of four or five adults with ASD and two psychologists. We will be using visual materials for this program, mainly the Cognitive Affective Training kit.
Discussion
This trial will hopefully indicate the efficacy of group-based CBT for adults with high- functioning ASD.
Trial registration
This trial was registered in The University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry No. UMIN000006236.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-14-231
PMCID: PMC3726296  PMID: 23880333
Autism spectrum disorders; Emotion regulation; High-functioning adults; Cognitive-behavioral therapy; Randomized controlled trial
21.  The Potential Role of Probiotics in the Management of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders 
Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction has been reported in a substantial number of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Activation of the mucosal immune response and the presence of abnormal gut microbiota are repeatedly observed in these children. In children with ASD, the presence of GI dysfunction is often associated with increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behaviour, and sleep disturbances. Moreover, modulating gut bacteria with short-term antibiotic treatment can lead to temporary improvement in behavioral symptoms in some individuals with ASD. Probiotics can influence microbiota composition and intestinal barrier function and alter mucosal immune responses. The administration of probiotic bacteria to address changes in the microbiota might, therefore, be a useful novel therapeutic tool with which to restore normal gut microbiota, reduce inflammation, restore epithelial barrier function, and potentially ameliorate behavioural symptoms associated with some children with ASD. In this review of the literature, support emerges for the clinical testing of probiotics in ASD, especially in the context of addressing GI symptoms.
doi:10.1155/2011/161358
PMCID: PMC3205659  PMID: 22114588
22.  Cognitive profiles and social-communicative functioning in children with autism spectrum disorder 
Background
Whether there is an unusual degree of unevenness in the cognitive abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and whether different cognitive profiles among children with ASD might index etiologically significant subgroups are questions of continued debate in autism research.
Method
The Differential Ability Scales (DAS) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) were used to examine profiles of verbal and nonverbal abilities and their relationship to autistic symptomatology in 120 relatively high-functioning children with ADI-confirmed diagnoses of autism.
Results
Discrepancies between verbal and nonverbal ability scores occurred at a significantly higher rate than in the DAS normative sample (30%) in both a younger group of 73 children (56%) with a mean age of 5;5 and an older group of 47 children (62%) with a mean age of 8;11. Discrepancies were mainly in favor of nonverbal ability in the younger group, but occurred equally in favor of verbal and nonverbal abilities in the older group. Comparison of the two age groups suggested a growing dissociation between verbal and nonverbal (and particularly visual processing) skills with age. In the older group, children with discrepantly higher nonverbal abilities demonstrated significantly greater impairment in social functioning, as measured on the ADOS, independent of absolute level of verbal and overall ability.
Conclusions
These findings demonstrate a high rate of uneven cognitive development in children with ASD. Indications of a dissociation between verbal and visual-perceptual skills among the older children, and the specific association of discrepantly high nonverbal skills with increased social symptoms suggest that the nonverbal > verbal profile may index an etiologically significant subtype of autism.
PMCID: PMC1201493  PMID: 12236615
Autistic disorder; behavioral phenotypes; cognition; individual differences; intelligence; symptomatology; ADI-R: Autism Diagnostic Interview - Revised; ADOS: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule; ASD: autism spectrum disorder; DAS: Differential Ability Scales; GCA: General Conceptual Ability; NV: Nonverbal; PDDNOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified; V: Verbal
23.  Aripiprazole in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Fragile X Syndrome 
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are childhood onset developmental disorders characterized by social skills impairment, repetitive behavior, and for classic autistic disorder, a significant communication impairment. In addition to these core symptom domains, persons with ASDs frequently exhibit interfering behavioral symptoms, including irritability marked by aggression, self-injurious behavior (SIB), and severe tantrums. Aripiprazole is an atypical or newer generation antipsychotic with a unique mechanism of action impacting dopaminergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. The drug has been found efficacious for several indications, including most recently for use targeting irritability associated with autistic disorder in youth. Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited cause of developmental disability and most common known single gene cause of ASDs. As in idiopathic ASDs, irritable behavior is often exhibited by persons with FXS. Research to date in this disorder, however, has not focused on this target symptom cluster. Initial pilot study has begun to assess the impact of aripiprazole on irritability in youth with FXS.
doi:10.1016/j.nurt.2010.04.001
PMCID: PMC2911359  PMID: 20643378
aripiprazole; autistic disorder; irritability; fragile X syndrome
24.  Risperidone and Divalproex Differentially Engage the Fronto-Striato-Temporal Circuitry in Pediatric Mania: A Pharmacological fMRI Study 
Objective
The current study examined the impact of risperidone and divalproex on affective and working memory circuitry in patients with pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD).
Method
This was a six-week double blind randomized trial of risperidone plus placebo vs. divalproex plus placebo for patients with mania (n=21; 13.6±2.5 years). The fMRI outcomes were measured using a block design affective N-back task with angry, happy and neutral face stimuli at baseline and at 6-week follow-up. Matched healthy controls (HC; n=15, 14.5±2.8 years) were also scanned twice.
Results
Post hoc analyses on the significant interaction in a 3×2×2 ANOVA which included patient groups and HC revealed that the risperidone group showed greater activation after treatment in response to the angry face condition in the left subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and striatum relative to the divalproex group. The divalproex group showed greater activation relative to the risperidone group in left inferior frontal gyrus and right middle temporal gyrus. Over the treatment course, the risperidone group showed greater change in activation in the left ventral striatum than the divalproex group, and the divalproex group showed greater activation change in left inferior frontal gyrus and right middle temporal gyrus than the risperidone group. Furthermore, each patient group showed increased activation relative to HC in fronto-striato-temporal regions over time. The happy face condition was potentially less emotionally challenging in this study and did not elicit notable findings.
Conclusion
When patients performed a working memory task under emotional duress inherent in the paradigm, divalproex enhanced activation in a fronto-temporal circuit while risperidone increased activation in the dopamine (D2) receptor-rich ventral striatum.
doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.10.019
PMCID: PMC3357915  PMID: 22265362
risperidone; divalproex; pediatric bipolar disorder; fMRI
25.  Increased gene expression of FOXP1 in patients with autism spectrum disorders 
Molecular Autism  2013;4:23.
Background
Comparative gene expression profiling analysis is useful in discovering differentially expressed genes associated with various diseases, including mental disorders. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of complex childhood-onset neurodevelopmental and genetic disorders characterized by deficits in language development and verbal communication, impaired reciprocal social interaction, and the presence of repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. The study aimed to identify novel genes associated with the pathogenesis of ASD.
Methods
We conducted comparative total gene expression profiling analysis of lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCL) between 16 male patients with ASD and 16 male control subjects to screen differentially expressed genes associated with ASD. We verified one of the differentially expressed genes, FOXP1, using real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) in a sample of 83 male patients and 83 male controls that included the initial 16 male patients and male controls, respectively.
Results
A total of 252 differentially expressed probe sets representing 202 genes were detected between the two groups, including 89 up- and 113 downregulated genes in the ASD group. RT-qPCR verified significant elevation of the FOXP1 gene transcript of LCL in a sample of 83 male patients (10.46 ± 11.34) compared with 83 male controls (5.17 ± 8.20, P = 0.001).
Conclusions
Comparative gene expression profiling analysis of LCL is useful in discovering novel genetic markers associated with ASD. Elevated gene expression of FOXP1 might contribute to the pathogenesis of ASD.
Clinical trial registration
Identifier: NCT00494754
doi:10.1186/2040-2392-4-23
PMCID: PMC3723673  PMID: 23815876
Autism; FOXP1; Expression microarray; Genetics; Lymphoblastoid cell line

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