Autism Treatment – Serotonin Imbalances, & MAO-A

Posted on 15 March 2010 by admin

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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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Tom Says:

    Monoamine oxidase A does not convert serotonin into its “active form.” It metabolizes the neurotransmitter, producing the byproducts 5-Hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide. Serotonin itself is a psychoactive molecule, and it activates the 5-HT receptors. Metabolizing serotonin via MAO-A actually renders the neurotransmitter inactive.

  2. Christine Says:

    How do you know if Prozac is your best option or if there is a problem with MAO-A? How significant is the difference in the behavior changes between the two treatments? Can Prozac be ‘harmful’ if there is actually a problem with the MAO-A?
    My son has severe anxiety and sensory issues. We have used Prozac for about a year now. We have seen improvements in our and his ability to go places and some of his sensitivities. Thank you!

  3. Dr. Woeller Says:

    Serotonin (as 5-HT) is converted (or metabolized) into 5-hydroxyindoleacetoaldehyde (5-HIAL) by MAO-A. Once this complexes with the post-synaptic receptor site the excreted metabolite is 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA). The 5-HIAL is called the ‘active aldehyde.’ My purpose with these videos and transcribed articles is to disseminate general information about various therapies and not make it overly technical. At times this warrants the discussion of biochemical concepts, but again I am trying to keep things basic for general understanding purposes. Thanks you for your commentary about serotonin and MAO-A.

  4. Kerry Says:

    What is a good support for MAO-A enzyme?

  5. Shweta Says:

    Dear Dr. Woeller,

    Our son Vihaan, Age 3 years 3 months has been diagnosed od ASD recently. The Serotonin test done in Feb 2010 suggested that Vihaan has very high levels of Serotonin. Do you think this reserpine therapy would help him?

  6. Suzanne Says:

    My daughter has a MAO A mutation and suffers from anxiety & OCD. She also exhibits poor eye contact and has difficulty with social language and concentration. I’ve tried to learn how to nutritionally support MAO-A but haven’t found much. How can we “fix” MAO-A, thus decreasing inactive serotonin and increasing serotonin?

  7. katie kelley Says:

    I also would like to know what is a good support for MAO_A enzyme?

  8. JV Says:

    So this begs the question: How can MAO-A or MAO-B be manipulated externally – directly or indirectly – via drugs/supplements/etc. ?

  9. Carole Says:

    I have been on Paxil for almost two decades. It has helped me (on the surface). But I decided to stop (progressively but surely) that treatment over a period of 4 months. Now am off Paxil at last ! I realised when I went “cold-turkey with muscle cramps, breaking out in tears, slurred speech, PROFUSE cold sweating, blurred vision and even hallucinations with night frights while withdrawing from the drug that I had been hooked on what my doctor had said was a “non-addictive medication”. The waning periode which lasted two months is now coming to an end and, when I feel really bad, I take herbal medication (supplements) (Seredyn) before going to bed to relax into sleep. This was absolute hell but am SO HAPPY TO BE FREE from that drug now. Taking long, calm walks in the country, reading good books and protecting myself as much as I can from the general bad news coming from the world, is the way to hold on to sanity and not panic..

  10. Carole Says:

    P.S. NEVER take the herbal supplements while on Serotonin re-uptake medication, as its interaction can be really hazardous for one’s health. Withrawing from a drug must be accompanied by Behaviour Cognitive Therapy with a trustworthy professional.

  11. danny mcgough Says:

    I also would love to know if they is any way we can help support this naturally , through our childs diet for instance? Is there any particular vitamins or foods which can help to support the enzyme/ serotonin conversion?? Any direction would be much appreciated as my child (asd) suffers form strong mood swings and general sad moods.

  12. Johnny Jefferson Says:

    Genuinely educational many thanks, It looks like your current audience may want significantly more well written articles such as this continue the good hard work.

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  1. Autism Treatment – Serotonin Imbalances, & MAO-A | Snipsly Says:

    […] Autism Treatment – An enzyme called MAO-A (monoamine oxidase A) is crucial for converting serotonin into its active form. There is growing evidence to suggest that many children with Autism have too much serotonin that is not being converted into this very necessary form. Biomedical autism intervention specialist physician, Dr. Kurt Woeller, explains. Filed under Health & Wellness Tags: autism recovery, autism recovery treatment, autism treatment, Dr. Kurt Woeller, MAO-A and autism, serotonin imbalances Start Making Money And Monetize My Forum » » […]

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