Medication strategies may improve sociability in autism

Children running

Social settings can be not only overwhelming, but also debilitating for some people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Recent research from scientists with EVMS Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences shows promising results in helping some with ASD overcome the challenges that such social interactions may cause.

The studies — one a laboratory-based study using mice and the other a small clinical trial — explored different compounds that stimulate a receptor in the brain that is known to affect sociability and cognition. The results of the studies showed improvements in both sociability and spatial working memory.

The research adds to the body of evidence generated by EVMS scientists that targeting this specific receptor can be an effective strategy for helping some people with ASD improve their socialization.

Everyday living with autism left Travis struggling to find his voice. Dr. Urbano and the EVMS Autism Spectrum Disorders Program for Adolescents and Young Adults has helped Travis better communicate in the world around him.

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"EVMS investigators showed that stimulating a specific type of glutamate receptor in the brain — called the NMDA receptor — increased social exploration and improved cognition, while reducing repetitive stereotypic behaviors," says Stephen Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Anne Armistead Robinson Chair in Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Deutch


Stephen Deutsch, MD, PhD

Anne Armistead Robinson Chair in Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Urbanno

Maria Urbano, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, lead researcher