Showing posts with label nootropic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nootropic. Show all posts

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Variable Expression of GABRA5 and Activation of α5 -  a Modifier of Cognitive Function in Autism?

Today’s post sounds complicated. We actually already know that the gene GABRA5, and hence the alpha 5 sub-unit of GABAA receptors, can affect cognition, but we do not know for sure in whom it is relevant.
Most readers of this blog are lay people, as such we tend to be predisposed to the idea that autism is somehow “hardwired”, something that just happened and cannot be reversed. Some of autism is indeed “hardwired”, you cannot take an adult with autism and “re-prune” his synapses, to produce a more elegant robust network in his brain. But much can be done, because many things in the brain are changing all the time, they are not fixed at all. Today’s post is good example.
GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. There are two types of GABA receptor, A and B. These receptors are made up of sub-units. There are many different possible combinations of sub-units to make GABAA receptors. These combinations are not fixed, or “hard-wired”; they vary all the time.
The composition of the GABAA receptor changes its effect. It can change how you feel (anxiety) and it can change you think/learn.
You can actually measure GABRA5 expression in different regions of the brain in a test subject using a PET-CT (Positron Emission Tomography–Computed Tomography) scan and it has been done in some adults with high functioning autism. This machine looks like a big front-leading washing machine, just a bit cleverer. 

our primary hypothesis was that, compared to controls, individuals with ASD have a significant reduction in α5 GABA receptor availability in these areas.
Due to the small sample size, we could not examine possible correlations between GABAA binding and particular symptoms of ASD, age, IQ, or symptoms of comorbidities frequently associated with ASD, such as anxiety disorders, OCD and depression. We were also unable to address the effects of possible neuroanatomical differences between people with ASD and controls, which might lead to partial volume effects in PET studies. However, the modest magnitude of the volumetric differences seen in most studies of high-functioning ASD suggests that it is unlikely that these could fully explain the present findings.

These preliminary results suggest that potentiation of GABAA signaling, especially at GABAA α5-subunit containing receptors, might potentially be a novel therapeutic target for ASD. Unselective GABAA agonists and positive allosteric modulators, such as benzodiazepines, have undesirable features such as abuse potential and tolerance, but more selective modulators might avoid such limitations. Further research should extend this work in a larger sample of ASD individuals. It would also be interesting to use PET with the ligand [11C]Ro15-4513 to measure GABAA in disorders of known etiology characterised by ASD symptoms, such as Fragile X and 15q11-13 duplication
In summary, we present preliminary evidence of reduced GABAA α5 expression in adult males with ASD, consistent with the hypothesis that ASD is characterised by a defect in GABA signaling. 

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which affect over 1% of the population, has increased twofold in recent years. Reduced expression of GABAA receptors has been observed in postmortem brain tissue and neuroimaging of individuals with ASDs. We found that deletion of the gene for the α5 subunit of the GABAA receptor caused robust autism-like behaviors in mice, including reduced social contacts and vocalizations. Screening of human exome sequencing data from 396 ASD subjects revealed potential missense mutations in GABRA5 and in RDX, the gene for the α5GABAA receptor-anchoring protein radixin, further supporting a α5GABAA receptor deficiency in ASDs.

The results from the current study suggest that drugs that act as positive allosteric modulators of α5GABAA receptors may ameliorate autism-like behaviors 

Too many or too few the α5GABAA receptors or too much/little activity?

Regular readers will know that autism is all about extremes hypo/hyper, macro/micro etc. The same is true with α5GABAA, too few can cause autistic behaviors, but too many can impede learning. You need just the right amount.
The next variable is how well your α5GABAA are behaving, because even if you have an appropriate number of these receptors, you may not have optimal activity from them. Over activity from α5GABAA is likely to have the same effect as having too many of them.
Here it becomes very relevant to many with autism and inflammatory comorbidities, because systemic inflammation has been shown to activate α5GABAA. It has been shown that increased α5GABAA receptor activity contributes to inflammation-induced memory deficits and, by my extension, to inflammation-induced cognitive decline.

α5GABAA Receptors Regulate Inflammation-Induced Impairment of Long-Term Potentiation

Systemic inflammation causes learning and memory deficits through mechanisms that remain poorly understood. Here, we studied the pathogenesis of memory loss associated with inflammation and found that we could reverse memory deficits by pharmacologically inhibiting α5-subunit-containing γ-aminobutyric acid type A (α5GABAA) receptors and deleting the gene associated with the α5 subunit. Acute inflammation reduces long-term potentiation, a synaptic correlate of memory, in hippocampal slices from wild-type mice, and this reduction was reversed by inhibition of α5GABAA receptor function. A tonic inhibitory current generated by α5GABAA receptors in hippocampal neurons was increased by the key proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β through a p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway. Interleukin-1β also increased the surface expression of α5GABAA receptors in the hippocampus. Collectively, these results show that α5GABAA receptor activity increases during inflammation and that this increase is critical for inflammation-induced memory deficits.

We saw in an earlier post that overexpression of GABRA5 is found in slow learners and we know that this is a key target of Down Syndrome research, aimed at raising cognitive function.

What can be modified?
It appears that you can modify the expression of GABRA5, which means you can increase/decrease the number of GABAA receptors that contain an α5 subunit.
You can also tune the response of those α5 subunits. You can increase it or decrease it.
Activation of the α5 subunit is thought to be the reason why benzodiazepine drugs  have cognitive (reducing) side effects. By extension, inverse agonists of α5 are seen as likely to be nootropic.
One such drug is LS-193,268  is a nootropic drug invented in 2004 by a team working for Merck, Sharp and Dohme.
A complication is that you do not want to affect the α2 subunit, or you will cause anxiety. So you need a highly selective inverse agonist.
The new Down Syndrome drug, Basmisanil, is just such a selective inverse agonist of α5.
Basmisanil (developmental code names RG-1662, RO5186582) is a highly selective inverse agonist/negative allosteric modulator of α5 subunit-containing GABAA receptors which is under development by Roche for the treatment of cognitive impairment associated with Down syndrome.  As of August 2015, it is in phase II clinical trials for this indication.

A contradiction
As is often the case, there is an apparent contradiction, because on the one hand a negative allosteric modulator should be nootropic in NT people and appears to raise cognition in models of Down Syndrome; but on the other hand results from a recent study suggests that drugs that act as positive allosteric modulators of α5GABAA receptors may ameliorate autism-like behaviors.
So which is it?
Quite likely both are right.
It is exactly as we saw a long while back with NMDAR activity, some people have too much and some have too little. Some respond to an agonist, some to an antagonist and some to neither.
What we can say is that fine-tuning α5GABAA in man and mouse seems a viable option to enhance cognition in those with learning difficulties.
The clever option is probably the positive/negative allosteric modulator route, the one being pursued by big Pharma for Down Syndrome.
I like Dr Pahan’s strategy from this previous post, for poor learners and those with early dementia

to use cinnamon/NaB to reduce GABRA5 expression, which has got to consequently reduce α5GABAA activity.
All of these strategies are crude, because what matters is α5GABAA activity in each part of the brain. This is why changing GABRA5 expression will inevitably have good effects in one area and negative effects in another area. What matter is the net effect, is it good, bad or negligible?
The fact that systemic inflammation increases α5GABAA activity may contribute to the cognitive decline some people with autism experience.
We previously saw how inflammation changes KCC2 expression and hence potentially increases intra cellular chloride, shifting GABA towards excitatory.
Ideally you would avoid systemic inflammation, but in fact all you can do is treat it.
Increasing α5GABAA activity I would see as possible strategy for people with high IQ, but some autistic features.
I think those with learning problems are likely to be the ones wanting less α5GABAA activity.
The people for whom “bumetanide has stopped working” or “NAC has stopped working” are perhaps the ones who have developed systemic inflammation for some reason.  You might only have to measure C-reactive protein (CRP) to prove this.

More reading for those interested:-

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Reassessing Cognitive Impairment in Autism – Improving the Prognosis

When Monty, now aged 11 with ASD, was diagnosed aged three and a half we were told that he had autism and “this may be indicative of the presence of an associated learning disability, but it is impossible at this stage to give a prognosis as to his future difficulties” and also “he is not yet able to take part in formal assessments of his cognitive ability. When his skills and ability to share interests with adults and to follow direction/instruction develop, it will be possible to formally assess his cognitive skills using standard measures.”

Off the record, we were also told that he might develop epilepsy.

We never measured his IQ and he has never had a seizure.

With hindsight, it is interesting what they said about it being pointless to try and measure his IQ.  Apparently it is not uncommon to do just that.

Improving Cognitive Function

This post is about cognitive improvement, so do not be put off by the introduction to MR/ID.  Several regular readers who are using some of the suggested drugs discussed in this blog are now also commenting on the resulting cognitive improvement, so it really is not just a case of N=1.

Nobody here is measuring the change in their child’s IQ, so these remain anecdotes.

To start on a happy note

Monty, aged 11 and diagnosed with classic autism, has been learning the piano for three years.  At the start he was not very cooperative with his teacher and after a few months the lessons stopped.  

27 months ago he started on bumetanide, the first part of his autism Polypill.  After years of ABA, slow but solid development appeared to have reached a plateau; but then he began to accelerate.  We restarted piano lessons again, with a new teacher.  Having added Atorvastatin, from the very next day he began to practice daily, playing without his teacher.  He has had two 40 minutes lessons most weeks since.  Two years later this is the result:-

 Click the image to play, turn up the volume (video may not work on Apples)

So there is no doubt that Monty got smarter.  When I heard him playing this piece, I thought it was the piano teacher, but she was recording Monty on her phone.

Big brother also did not believe little brother was playing this, until he saw the full video (with moving fingers).

Reading, writing, and numeracy have all improved and are now at a similar level to those of many of his NT classmates (who are 2 to 3 years younger than him).  Rather unexpectedly, he was recently the only one in class who understood how to multiply fractions; this was never taught at home.   

Prior to starting the Polypill drugs, I had spent three years, on and off, trying to teach Monty prepositions, without much progress.  This is almost always a difficult area for those with classic autism.  In the end he figured it all out by himself, with a little help from Bumetanide.

Recently yet another cognitive step forward seems to have have occurred, which appears to be the result of PAK 1 inhibiting propolis and/or the tangeretin flavonoid.  Monty's assistant in school was today proudly showing me his latest school test result, "73% and it was all his own work".  She thinks it is the tangeretin.

In earlier years school was for “socialization”, not learning.  This is fine as long as the learning takes place at home, otherwise inclusion means no education.

Cognitive Function, IQ, MR/ID

I prefer to talk about cognitive function, and its improvement or enhancement.  Drugs that achieve this are usually called Nootropic.

I think that many people remain skeptical about Nootropics.

Psychiatrists, Pediatricians and Psychologists prefer to think about IQ, MR/ID.

People affected do not like the old term of Mental Retardation (MR) and so quite recently, in English speaking countries, it was replaced by the term Intellectual Disability (ID).  The World Health Organization still use the old term, as does almost everybody else.

Somebody is diagnosed with MR or ID if their IQ is below 70.  In a typical group of 100 people, two people (2.2%) would be expected to fall into that category.  The average IQ (mean, median and mode) is 100.

In theory as you progress through childhood and into adulthood your IQ is expected to stay the same.  So the tests used adjust for your age.  There are special non-verbal tests.

If you acquire new skills at a lower rate than typical, your IQ would appear to fall over time.  This does not mean that you have lost skills just that you are acquiring new skills at a slower rate than your peers.  This explains why parents of kids with ASD, who do have their IQ tested, often find their score goes down as they get older.

Measuring IQ in Autism

I think it is generally a bad idea to measure IQ in people with autism.

There is anecdotal evidence to show that the results are often not valid, because the test is based on the assumption of compliance and that the child is actually doing his/her best.  Not surprisingly, the experts have found that children undergoing an ABA program improve their measured IQ by 10s.  After a few months of ABA the previously unfocused child has been trained to sit down, sit still, pay attention and work.  Of course they then get a higher score, but are they now more intelligent?

One reason put forward for not measuring IQ, is that while people will go a long way to help a child with autism to learn, once you add a diagnosis of MR/ID, some people will try much less hard.

Nonetheless people do measure IQ in autism and it is worth a quick look at what is known.

Some people are saying that 50% of people with autism have MR/ID.  I always found that odd, and what exactly do they mean by autism?

Using the previous US DSM definitions, Asperger’s was a part of the autistic spectrum but had the precondition that there was no MR/ID and no language delay.  Then you had the middle group with the odd name of PDD-NOS    (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).  This groups the people with more issues than Asperger’s, but without many of the problems experienced by those diagnosed with Autism.

So in the old US system there were 3 main categories, plus 2 minor ones:-

1.     Asperger’s
2.     PDD-NOS
3.     Autism
4.     Retts Syndrome
5.     Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Very few people have Retts or CDD.

The Autistic Spectrum was, in effect, also called PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) just to confuse people a little more.  PDD = ASD = the above five conditions.

The latest version DSM5 went several steps backwards.  Everybody affected in the US is now just ASD, all five categories were merged.  

Hopefully nobody else in the world will pay any attention.

Unfortunately being Psychiatrists, they again have to muddy the water and all the future data/statistics.  A portion of people formerly diagnosed with PDD-NOS, will now get diagnosed with SCD (Social Communication Disorder) which is set outside the new definition of ASD.

“Congratulations you are off the Spectrum” 

I really do wonder about the IQ of these Psychiatrists.

Reliable Data on ASD

I do like to have some reliable data.  The quality of data in the field of autism is usually very poor and incompatible (i.e. rubbish).  Most data, like that from the CDC in the US, is unreliable.  It seems that richer “Ethnic European” parents push to get an autism diagnosis much harder than poorer “Hispanic” and “African American” parents.  Perhaps hard to believe as an outsider, but in the US poverty equals low diagnosis of autism and wealth equals high diagnosis.  Incidence does not equal diagnosis.  CDC data is just who got diagnosed; in the US many poorer people do not get diagnosed.  If you live in a country with free socialized healthcare, as in Europe, this will look strange.

I have chosen a highly regarded, and very highly cited, Canadian source for my data.

Éric Fombonne  is a French psychiatrist and epidemiologist based at McGill University in Montreal.  He co-authored a pair of studies in 2001 and 2005 with Suniti Chakrabarti, that examined the entire preschool and early school population of one large area of the United Kingdom (falling under the South Staffordshire Health Authority).

There is a stable population of indigenous British people with a small (1.4%), mostly Asian, immigrant population. The total population living in the area was 320 000 people.

The studies are:-

All children from 2.5 to 6.5 years old were screened, a total of 15,500 children in total 97 children (79.4% male)  were found to have a PDD (i.e. be somewhere on the autistic spectrum)

Of the 97 children, 29 (29.9%) had no functional use of language defined as the daily spontaneous use of 3-word phrases. The proportion of children without functional language was however strongly associated with diagnostic subtype (AD, 69.2%; Asperger syndrome, 0%; PDD-NOS, 16.1%).

Of the 97 children, 37 children underwent Merrill-Palmer testing and 56, Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence testing. Four children could not be tested for practical reasons. Overall, 24 (25.8%) of 93 children had some degree of mental retardation. The 2 children with childhood disintegrative disorder and Retts syndrome scored in the moderate range of mental retardation.

Side-note about shoddy research

To show those of you still unconvinced that published, and moderately highly cited, autism research can be rubbish, the authoritative sounding paper written by a Professor of Psychology below also reviewed the above research data.

The author commented:-

Recent epidemiological surveys have shown that the prevalence rates of MR in children with autism is between 40% and 55% (e.g., Chakrabarti & Fombonne, 2001), much lower than the typical rates cited in the literature.”

The Chakrabarti & Fombonne 2001 paper clearly shows 69% of people with the narrow diagnosis of “autism” had MR whereas 25.8% of those with the broader diagnosis of ASD/PDD.

More than 100 other papers now cite the author’s incorrect readings of the original research.

I do not know what IQ you need to have to be a Professor of Psychology, but it clearly needs to be increased.

Back to the Fombonne studies

Four years later they repeated the same study on the next cohort of English school children:-

The rate of mental retardation in the autistic disorder group was 66.7%, compared to 12.0% in the group with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified and 0.0% in the Asperger's disorder group

So I will take the average of the two studies

            Autism                       68% with MR/ID
            PD-NOS                     10% with MR/ID
            Asperger’s                    0% with MR/ID

What surprised me was the breakdown of the children by PDD.  Most kids (>50%) were PD-NOS, I did not expect that.

  Autism                        31%
            PD-NOS                     52%
            Asperger’s                  16%
            CDD/Retts                    1%

So the percentage all PDD (i.e. all ASD) with MR was 27%

Combining this as a graphic:-  


So now when people tell me that 50% of kids with autism have MR/ID, at least I know the likely reality.  It is either more, or less, depending on what you mean by “autism”; but is not 50%.


Most people think you cannot change your IQ.

The reality is that testing a young child with severer ASD is highly likely to underestimate their IQ, since the test assumes that the child will comply with the tester.  Most young children with autism do not comply with their parents, let alone an IQ tester.

ABA will improve compliance and hence improve an IQ test result.

Long term ABA use will, in many cases, gradually improve the child’s ability to learn and hence boost cognitive function and by implication an IQ test result.  You will find references to people saying ABA raised their kids IQ score by one or two dozen.

Correcting the biological dysfunctions underlying autism undermines the whole shaky DSM system.

PDD-NOS is, in effect, milder classic autism without the stereotypy .
Take some N-acetyl cysteine pills, you lower oxidative stress and you can stop the stereotypy.  So then your “expert” diagnosis would change from classic autism to PDD-NOS?

Take a few more pills and instead being in the 68%, with an IQ of less than 70, you can move up to 85 and, who knows, maybe much higher.

But it has to be said that the concept of IQ is something many people think they understand.

If one day, I were to make a clinical trial of my autism Polypill, I would definitely include a before and after measurement of IQ, alongside all the usual behavioral measures that most people would not understand.

And then …

“Wonder drug rescues people with autism from mental retardation”

In the meantime, we can continue correcting the remaining biological dysfunctions underlying autism and thus improving cognitive function.

Note the rocket, for those with classic autism doing just this and changing their prognosis.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Assessment Week at School and Cognitive Enhancement in Autism

 In earlier posts I have touched upon the problems of clinical trials in autism:-
·        Highly subjective, or ineffective, rating scales for autistic behaviours

·        Lack of biomarkers, or any other marker, to target a specific sub-types(phenotypes of autism

·        Very small sample sizes and often amateur execution, meaning the results cannot be replicated

I think one of these problems has a ready solution, at least for verbal primary school children with ASD. 

Assessment Week
Last week, Monty aged 10 with ASD, had assessment week at school.  The academic subjects he participates in, are Maths, English and Science.  We have chosen to skip Geography, History and French.  Monty already has another second language.
Following the tests at school, I decided to make a test of my own.  I stopped all of my therapies and waited to see what would happen and if anyone would notice.

The first therapy I had to reintroduce was bumetanide, which in his case makes him far more aware of himself and his surroundings; it makes him more “present”.  The reason for this was, for the first time in years, on day one, he forgot to go to the toilet and peed in his pants.  A coincidence?  I think not.  Also, when I told him that I was going out, instead of the expected “see you later, Dad” I got “see you Monday”.
Then the next day having restarted bumetanide we drive to school.  I hear lots of relevant comments like “There’s a Peugeot lion taxi car”, “The soldier has a gun, that fires bullets”.  The day before there were no comments at all.

But the day at school was not so good; all the stereotypy with his hands and fingers returned, so while the day was not hard for his assistant, she said it was hard for Monty.  He was commenting, like the things he could see through the window of his classroom, but work was not good.  Handwriting degenerated to oversized sloppy writing, that did not follow the lines on the paper. In the afternoon, I reinstated NAC, just in time for the arrival of his assistant who works with him at home, following an ABA-style programme.  During the rest of the afternoon, all stereotypy with his hands and fingers disappeared, just as expected.
Today, I met the school teacher and not only were his grades As and Bs, but he finished his tests much faster than most of the other children.  This is remarkable, because he has never received any real academic grades before; the teachers did not think it fair to give him grades.  I should point out that Monty is at least 2 years older than his classmates; but then he was pretty much entirely non-verbal until he was 4 years old, so he has lost a lot of learning time.

The relevance of all this is that while psychological and behavioral testing is very subjective, basic cognitive testing, as practiced in schools around the world, is very well understood, fair and easy to replicate.
With children who are verbal, can read a bit, write and do some very basic maths, a simple cognitive test, measuring these basic skills, assessing both  accuracy and speed would produce a pretty good surrogate index of cognitive functioning.  You could easily use such an index to measure the effectiveness of a drug in autism.  If large scale trials were done in Special Schools, this could work really well.  One week the class is on the placebo and the next week on the trial drug.  Then you could have trials with several hundred participants.

I think coming up with measurements for things like “social withdrawal”, as is currently done, is far too esoteric.  Let’s go back to the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic).

Nootropic drugs
I find it more than a coincidence that several of the autism drugs I am investigating, happen to be classed as nootropic.  Nootropic drugs are cognitive enhancers.

I have demonstrated that as you improve autism, you increase cognitive function; but perhaps as you improve cognitive function, you improve autism.  If this were true, it would open up new avenues for investigation.
There is an underground scene of cognitive enhancers, and if you probe the internet, you will readily find what works and what does not.

On the serious research front, here is a recent paper that is very comprehensive:-




Monday, 21 October 2013

Piracetam for Autism, Comrades

Piracetam was first synthesized in 1964 by a Romanian scientist called Corneliu Giurgea, who was highly unusual.  He was educated in then communist Romania, followed by research in Russia and then at the University of Rochester in the US, before ending up in Belgium, eventually as the Head of Research at drug firm UCB and being a Professor at a Belgian university.  How this was possible under the strict form of communism followed in Romania,  I do not really understand.

Anyway, Giurgea was clearly very resourceful and he decided to invent a new class of drugs, to be called Nootropic.
He stated that Nootropic drugs should have the following characteristics:
1.     They should enhance learning and memory.
2.     They should enhance the resistance of learned behaviors/memories to conditions which tend to disrupt them (e.g. electroconvulsive shock, hypoxia).
3.     They should protect the brain against various physical or chemical injuries.
4.     They should increase the efficacy of the tonic cortical/subcortical control mechanisms.
5.     They should lack the usual pharmacology of other psychotropic drugs (e.g. sedation, motor stimulation) and possess very few side effects and extremely low toxicity.

Piracetam was soon followed by other drugs developed by competitors.
This class of drug seems never to have been licensed in the US, but was used widely in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and some western European countries.
As seems all too common in medicine, nobody knows for sure how Piracetam works.  There are many proposed mechanisms and I was attracted by one of them.

Autism in Ukraine
The internet does give the impression of giving you all the answers.  Often it gives you far too much information, much of it of dubious quality.  In reality, you are only seeing what is written in English, and although it is the international language of science and medicine, you will never see the majority of Russian, Japanese and Chinese knowledge/research.  Medical practice varies widely between Western medicine and the others.
In Japan for example, the MMR vaccination has been banned since 1993 and Prozac, the anti-depressant prescribed in huge quantities in the US, is a banned substance.  
So it was not a surprise to find only passing references to apparently widespread use of Piracetam for autism in the Ukraine, going back for decades.  I have no doubt if you could access the Russian research you would find studies on this.

Side Effects
There is no shortage of drugs prescribed in the US for autism, such as Ritalin, Prozac and Risperidone.  I have no doubt that they have some very good qualities; however they all have very real side effects, some of which are permanent.  Giurgea was very wise to only consider drugs with very few side effects and low toxicity.

In the 50 years since he synthesized Piracetam, one thing everyone seems to agree on, is that either it has no side effects, or it has very minor side effects.

Does Piracetam work?
In the 1970s there were numerous studies on Piracetam in a wide range of neurological conditions.  Today Piracetam is extensively used “off label” as a treatment for many of those conditions.  Does Piracetam work in autism?

I guess the doctors in the Ukraine must think it works.  Dr Akhondzadeh, a researcher into autism, ADHD, and other mental health conditions in Iran, found it to be effective.  Kelly Dorfman of the Development Delay Resources in Pittsburgh thinks it is effective for learning disabilities and dyspraxia, but less so for autism.
Olga Bogdashina, President of the Autism Society of Ukraine, notes that piracetam is widely used as an autism treatment in the Ukraine. Having conducted her own small-scale study, she found that piracetam improved the attention spans and mental capabilities in the majority of participating children. She also says that her autistic son became more sociable and flexible and less aggressive on the supplement. She does warn that during the initial phase of treatment, hyperactivity and tantrums may increase. However, researcher Stephen Fowkes notes that these side effects are only common with high doses, and asserts that they are rare with standard doses (both cited in “Letters to the Editor, Autism Research Review International, 1996).

I thought Bogdashina’s name was familiar.  I read her book on sensory issues in autism.  It is a good read, but it does not really tell you what to do.

Piracetam’s claimed possible methods of action
·        It is NOT a sedative or a stimulant

·        Piracetam is a positive allosteric modulator of the AMPA receptor.

·         It is hypothesized to act on ion channels or ion carriers; thus leading to increased neuron excitability

·         GABA brain metabolism and GABA receptors are not affected by piracetam.

·         Piracetam improves the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine via muscarinic cholinergic (ACh) receptors, which are implicated in memory processes

·        Furthermore, piracetam may have an effect on NMDA glutamate receptors, which are involved with learning and memory processes.

·        Piracetam is thought to increase cell membrane permeability

·        Piracetam may exert its global effect on brain neurotransmission via modulation of ion channels (i.e., Na+, K+).

·        It has been found to increase oxygen consumption in the brain, apparently in connection to ATP metabolism, and increases the activity of adenylate kinase in rat brains.

·        Piracetam, while in the brain, appears to increase the synthesis of cytochrome b5, which is a part of the electron transport mechanism in mitochondria.

·        But in the brain, it also increases the permeability of the mitochondria of some intermediaries of the Krebs cycle.

In 2005 there was an interesting review carried out in Poland; it is very readable.

"Piracetam is generally reported to have minimal or no side effects. It is interesting to note, however,  that piracetam is occasionally reported side effects of anxiety, insomnia, agitation, irritability  and tremor are identical to the symptoms of excessive acetylcholine/glutamate neuroactivity. In spite of these effects, piracetam is generally not considered to be a significant agonist or inhibitor of the synaptic action of most   neurotransmitters. The piracetam-type nootropic drugs might exert their
effect on some species of molecules present in the plasma membrane. It would seem that they act as potentiators of an already present activity, rather than possessing any neurotransmitter-like activity of  their own."

It would seem to me that we have come back to the vagus nerve and the Cholinergic system

I learnt in that post that there are two main classes of acetylcholine receptor (AChR), nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChR).  Mostly it seems to be the nicotinic type that is targeted by medical science, but piracetam has an effect on the other type of receptor.  This would explain excessive use of piracetam causing symptoms of too much acetylcholine.
If this is indeed the case, that would add yet another method of “correcting” the known biomarker of autism that is “diminished acetylcholine and nicotinic receptor activity”.  Of all the methods I have so far investigated, this might actually be the safest;  it is certainly inexpensive.

Effect on Comorbidities
My method of separating fact from fiction in autism now includes looking at the effect of therapies on the principal comorbidities of autism.  Most genuinely effective drugs seem to work across many comorbidities.  Epilepsy is the most prevalent comorbidity.

"CONCLUSIONS—This study provides further evidence that piracetam is an effective and safe medication in patients with Unverricht-Lundborg disease. In addition, it shows that a dose of 24 g is highly beneficial, more effective than lower doses and that a dose-effect relation exists. There is considerable variation in optimal individual dosage. "
Note:  Unverricht–Lundborg disease is the most common form of an uncommon group of epilepsy called the progressive myoclonus epilepsies.

Piracetam seems to be a safe supplement/drug that improves mood and reduces aggression (and SIBs).  I thought it was worthwhile testing and indeed I was not disappointed.  The dosage suggested is 50-100 mg/kg, but the optimal dose seems to vary by child.  If you follow my vagus nerve/neuroinflammation/ cholinergic way of thinking, then Piracetam would be acting (via acetylcholine) to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and hence reduce inflammation in the autistic brain.  This would mean that Piracetam would be a useful tool to control autism flare-ups, be they triggered by pollen allergy, intestinal inflammation, or even stress.  I shall use it as such.

As for why Piracetam seems more effective in the Ukraine than in Pittsburgh - that I can answer.  Much of what passes as autism in Pittsburgh, would be completely ignored in Kiev.  It would not be diagnosed as autism; only if it is disabling would it be called autism.  If you have "autism-lite", the symptoms are mild and you probably do not need Piracetam and it would likely have little effect.   The same would apply for the majority of ADHD/ADD cases, outside of the US they would not be diagnosed as such.
If you are on Ritalin for your severe ADHD, you might want to try Piracetam.  If you Google ADHD and Piracetam, you will find adults using Piracetam to avoid the side effects of Ritalin.
If your child suffers from SIBs (self-injurious behaviours) then Piracetam, along with nicotine patches, would be well worth investigating.