Doctors, parents, and researchers always seem to be looking for “it”: The cure to autism. While science seems to be years away from such a discovery, scientists have tapped into drugs intended to treat Alzheimer’s disease as a possible catalyst for brain activity in individuals with autism. Their out-of-the-box thinking has been rewarded with some positive, though tentative, results.
Dr. Randall Kavalier, a psychiatrist in private practice in West Des Moines, Iowa, prescribes Namenda to children who have autism or who suffer from brain injuries. Namenda, the brand name of memantine, is the first in a class of Alzheimer’s disease medications that blocks NMDA glutamate receptors. Dr. Kavalier states that Namenda clears up the interference among signals to nerves in the brain. Dr. Kavalier said that while elderly brains have long finished developing, children’s brains are still being molded. He said that, in many cases, after children swallow a few pills, “They light up. I mean, they turn on.”
Dr. Kavalier is not the first to experiment with memantine. Last summer, researchers at The Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center also used a drug normally prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients to determine if it will improve the communication skills of children with autism with positive results.
In 2001, Michael Chez, M.D., a child neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Rush Medical School in Chicago published a study about the positive effects of Aricept (donepezil) on the language production in mild to moderately affected children with autism.
Have you tried this medication? Would you try it?