Historical perspectives on the use of therapeutic agents to treat neurodevelopmental disorders

Kimberly A. Stigler, Craig A. Erickson, David J. Posey, Christopher J. McDougle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


We provide a historical overview of the evolution of drug therapy in autistic disorder (autism), fragile X syndrome (FXS), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often, the discovery of a pharmacological treatment is serendipitous, particularly for ADHD. In contrast, neurobiological findings, in part, have led the way to a consideration of certain therapeutic agents for autism and FXS. The intriguing early history behind our understanding of the pharmacotherapy of these disorders is described, with an emphasis on landmark studies in their respective fields. Neurobiology and pharmacotherapy of autistic disorder Autism is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by impairments in social skills and communication as well as repetitive interests and activities. Individuals with autism often suffer from interfering associated symptoms that range from aggression and self-injurious behavior to a profound need for sameness and repetition that can negatively impact meaningful participation in activities of everyday life. In an effort to better understand the neurobiological basis of autism, investigators looked to research methods that would elucidate the neurochemistry of this lifelong disorder. Historical perspective Research into the neurobiology of autism initially focused on the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]), largely due to its known prominent role in mammalian brain development. The 5-HT system is one of the first neuronal systems to develop and is extensively distributed throughout the brain. In the immature mammalian brain, 5-HT functions as a growth factor to guide brain proliferation and maturation (Whitaker-Azmitia 1993). Given the importance of the 5-HT system in human brain development, investigators hypothesized that 5-HT dysregulation may contribute to the emergence of autism early in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTranslational Neuroscience
Subtitle of host publicationApplications in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780511980053
ISBN (Print)9780521519762
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Historical perspectives on the use of therapeutic agents to treat neurodevelopmental disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Stigler, K. A., Erickson, C. A., Posey, D. J., & McDougle, C. J. (2012). Historical perspectives on the use of therapeutic agents to treat neurodevelopmental disorders. In Translational Neuroscience: Applications in Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (pp. 261-272). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511980053.016