MU health study finds blood pressure drug may improve autism

4 years 7 months 2 weeks ago Monday, February 01 2016 Feb 1, 2016 Monday, February 01, 2016 3:18:00 PM CST February 01, 2016 in News
By: Fan Feng and Kylie Callura, KOMU 8 Digital Producers

COLUMBIA – University of Missouri researchers found a common medicine used to treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats may help individuals with autism with social and conversational skills.

In a study by the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders, 20 individuals with autism were given either a 40 milligram dose of propranolol, a drug intended to treat high blood pressure, or a placebo pill.

According to researchers, the individuals who took propranolol scored noticeably higher on six social skills an hour later. David Beversdorf, associate professor in the departments of radiology, neurology and psychological sciences at MU said one dose of propranolol showed significant increases in communication and conversational skills.

The high blood pressure drug was first tested on individuals with autism in 1987. While the results showed some improvement in language and social skills, the trials were not controlled or randomized.

“Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit of propranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with autism,” Beversdorf said.  

“Additional studies could lead the way for improved treatments for individuals with autism,” Beversdorf said.

In the United States, approximately one in 68 children has autism. It can be treated with medications and behavioral therapies, but there is no cure currently.  

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