There appears to be growing evidence that in Autism, what we may be seeing chemically, at the brain level, could have to do with a serotonin imbalance. For many years it’s been thought that for people who have depression, mood problems, mood instability issues, difficulty learning, etc, could actually have a deficiency in serotonin. It’s been thought even too with some of the kids on the Autism spectrum that there may be a serotonin deficiency which can again lead to some of the mood problems, behavioral problems, depressive episodes, as well as issues in learning, attention, etc. In many cases, if it’s real severe, kids are put on things that help to stimulate serotonin or at least preserve the serotonin production in the brain such as things like Zoloft and Paxil and whatnot. And in some cases it does help with some of their underlying sensory issues.
But, it may be what were looking at is well we’re not necessarily have a true deficiency of serotonin, but the active metabolite of serotonin is not being produced adequately. There’s an enzyme in our body, and it’s active in the brain, called MAOA (Monoamine oxidase A) and there’s actually two versions MAO-A and MAO-B. MAO-A helps to convert serotonin, it also helps to convert norepinephrine and histamine but specifically serotonin it actually helps to convert it into its active form. And when you convert it into its active form, the serotonin works more effectively and therefore we’ve seen an improvement in many of the underlying issues in kids on the Spectrum the less self stimulatory behavior, improved sensory issues, attention, focusing, learning capabilities. And one interesting thing about serotonin if it’s actually too high in it’s inactive state, it actually can inhibit oxytocin receptors and we know that oxytocin is very important for eye contact, facial expression recognition, socialization and even anxiety. So again, going back to understanding the biochemistry of how things work in the brain is critically important and specifically important in the condition of Autism.
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