New research in mice shows autism is characterized by reduced inhibitory neuron activity and increased excitatory neuron in the brain, but balance can be restored with low doses of anti-anxiety drugs.
Researchers at the University of Washington, in Seattle, found that reducing the effectiveness of inhibitory activity also induced autism-related deficits in social behavior. Existing drugs had the opposite effect, increasing inhibitory neuron activity and reducing autistic behaviors.
“These are very exciting results because they suggest that existing drugs, called benzodiazepines, might be useful in treatment of the core deficits in autism,” senior author Dr. William Catterall was quoted as saying. “Our results provide strong evidence that increasing inhibitory neurotransmission is an effective approach to improvement of social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and cognitive deficits in a well-established animal model of autism, having some similar behavioral features as human autism.”