A review of: Aman, M.G., Hollway, J.A., McDougle, C.J., Scahill, L., Tierney, E., McCracken, J.T., Arnold, L.E., Vitiello, B., Ritz, L., Gavaletz, A., Cronin, P., Swiezy, N., Wheeler, C., Koenig, K., Ghuman, J.K., Posey, D.J. (2008). Cognitive Effects of Risperidone in Children with Autism and Irritable Behavior. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 18(3), 227-236. DOI: 10.1089/cap.2007.0133

Risperdone is a neuroleptic antipsychotic drug that has been extensively used for the treatment of schizophrenia, and more recently bi-polar disorder. Risperdone also became the first FDA approved drug for treatment of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder in children. This drug has significant anxiolytic (calming) proprieties and thus it has been used “off-label” (outside FDA recommendation) for the treatment of anxiety, panic disorder, and even depression. In 2006, the FDA finally approved the use of Risperdone in children with autism.

Because of its mild sedation effects, researchers and clinicians have proposed that this drug may have a negative impact of cognition. However, research with adults with schizophrenia, as well as research with children with disruptive behavior problems, has generally found Risperdone to have a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. In this study, the authors examined the effect of Risperdone on the cognitive abilities of children with autism with severe behavior problems.

The study used a double-blind, placebo controlled methodology. The study included 38 children with autism who were participating in a clinical trial of Risperdone. 20 participants had been randomly assigned to take Risperdone and 18 participants were taking the placebo. The trial lasted 8 weeks. The children were tested with several cognitive measures, including a cancellation task (attention task), a verbal learning task, a motor-eye coordination task, and a classroom task (skill-dependent math task). No detriment from the use of Risperdone was observed in any of the cognitive measures. Instead, significantly better performance was noted among children taking Risperdone compared to those taking placebo on tasks of attention and verbal learning. The authors concluded that Risperdone does not appear to have any short term detrimental effects on cognitive function and may instead facilitate cognitive performance on some children.


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One Response to Risperdone use in children with autism may improve cognitive performance

  1. Anonymous says:

    Risperdone? My son’s doctor told me to put my son on this stuff for his self-injurious behaviors. I argued that until we ELIMINATE ALL underlying medical issues that could be triggering self-injury, I would not put my son on a drug that could cause more health problems. Turns out my son, through extensive tests I had to fight like a madwoman to get my son to have, has an ulcer, high ammonia levels and is anemic! Now, just imagine if I were dumb enough to go for the psychiatric drugs which would have done NOTHING to help his underlying medical issues and in face cause MORE problems for his liver and kidneys, since he’s already on seizure meds. Listen folks, when you have an autistic child with self-injurious behavior who can’t talk and has seizures they are in a very, very unique position. A very delicate position. Stuffing them full of drugs does not cure SIB. Insisting doctors run tests and obsessively search for all and any underlying medical issues that could be causing pain, discomfort or frustration is imperative!!!! Don’t settle for the quick fix. Insist on MRI of brain, head and neck. abdomen, etc…blood tests,. etc… Then, after all this you eliminates all possible reasons medically your child could be multiliating himself, then consider the behavioral interventions or psychiatric drugs. The hard truth my friends is that medical insurances don’t give a damn about searching for what is really going on because it costs money to investigate such an unknown phenomenon. It’s much easier and cheaper to prescribe a pill.

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