Social and communication skills are a daily struggle for many people with Autism, especially in children. There are have been many technologies that can assist them in communicating daily, such as topic boards and picture communication symbols. For a tool that directly improves their communication skills, blood pressure pills have proven to be drastically effective in giving children with Autism increased skills in multiple areas such as staying on topic and maintaining eye contact during conversation.
A study on a blood pressure pill, called Propranolol, was done at the University of Missouri Center for Translational Neuroscience led by Rachel Zamzow, a graduate student from MU.
The study involved 20 people with Autism being given Propranolol, a 40-milligram dose, or a placebo pill. After an hour of taking the pills, conversations were held between the researchers and the participants, focusing on a variety of basic conversation necessities: maintaining eye contact, transitions or interruptions, reciprocation, nonverbal communication, staying on topic, and sharing information. The study concluded with Propranolol being greatly effective in improving the communication skills of the participants, especially when being compared to the results of placebo pill.
David Beversdorf, M.D. is an associate professor in the radiology, neurology, and psychological science departments at MU, as well at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. He was also the senior author of the study.
“Propranolol was first reported to improve the language and sociability skills of individuals with Autism in 1987, but it was not a randomized, controlled trial, and there has been little follow-up research on this drug in relation to Autism,” Beversdorf said. “Though more research is needed to study its effects after more than one dose, these preliminary results show a potential benefit to Proranolol to improve the conversational and nonverbal skills of individuals with Autism.”
By: Nicole Caropolo