Lamotrigine Therapy for Autistic Disorder: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Karin M. Belsito, Paul A. Law, Karen S. Kirk, Rebecca J. Landa, Andrew W. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In autism, glutamate may be increased or its receptors up-regulated as part of an excitotoxic process that damages neural networks and subsequently contributes to behavioral and cognitive deficits seen in the disorder. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of lamotrigine, an agent that modulates glutamate release. Twenty-eight children (27 boys) ages 3 to 11 years (M = 5.8) with a primary diagnosis of autistic disorder received either placebo or lamotrigine twice daily. In children on lamotrigine, the drug was titrated upward over 8 weeks to reach a mean maintenance dose of 5.0 mg/kg per day. This dose was then maintained for 4 weeks. Following maintenance evaluations, the drug was tapered down over 2 weeks. The trial ended with a 4-week drug-free period. Outcome measures included improvements in severity and behavioral features of autistic disorder (stereotypies, lethargy, irritability, hyperactivity, emotional reciprocity, sharing pleasures) and improvements in language and communication, socialization, and daily living skills noted after 12 weeks (the end of a 4-week maintenance phase). We did not find any significant differences in improvements between lamotrigine or placebo groups on the Autism Behavior Checklist, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior scales, the PL-ADOS, or the CARS. Parent rating scales showed marked improvements, presumably due to expectations of benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Volume31
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2001

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Lamotrigine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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