Autism: Low Dose Buspar May Reduce Repetitive Behaviors

Diane C. Chugani, PhD Director, Nemours Neuroscience Research Nemours—AI DuPont Hospital for Children Wilmington, DE 19803

Dr. Chugani Interview with:
Diane C. Chugani, PhD
Director, Nemours Neuroscience Research
Nemours—AI DuPont Hospital for Children
Wilmington, DE 19803 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Chugani: This clinical trial was performed at 5 sites throughout the country and was lead by our team at Wayne State University and Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.  The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health through an Autism Centers of Excellence Network grant.  Based upon our previous PET scanning studies showing low  serotonin synthesis  in the brains of young children with autism, we tested whether the serotonin-like drug buspirone would be beneficial in treating young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We found that low doses of buspirone were effective in reducing repetitive behaviors with no significant side effects in this group of children.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Chugani: We want to emphasize that early intensive behavioral therapy should continue to be recommended for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  However, since behavioral treatments are effective for the improvement of social communication symptoms of autism, but less effective for symptoms of repetitive and restricted behavior, the addition of low doses of buspirone to the behavioral treatment may provide a more comprehensive approach in treating the full range of ASD symptoms by targeting also the repetitive behaviors.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Chugani: Determining the effectiveness of low dose buspirone combined with various degrees of early intensive behavioral therapy to assess the optimal treatment approach is the next step in my research, which I will undertake with my new team at Nemours AI DuPont Hospital for Children in Delaware.  Future studies aimed at understanding why low doses, but not higher doses, are effective would also be important in guiding treatment for autism and will provide new insights.


Efficacy of Low-Dose Buspirone for Restricted and Repetitive Behavior in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Trial

Chugani, Diane C.Jiang, Huiyuan et al.

The Journal of Pediatrics , Volume 0 , Issue 0
Published Online:December 30, 2015


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Diane C. Chugani, PhD (2016). Autism: Low Dose Buspar May Reduce Repetitive Behaviors