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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are associated with atypical social, behavioral and physiological characteristics. Here we outline an emerging connection among the increased incidence of epilepsy, disrupted sleep and perseverative behaviors exhibited and sought by persons with autism. Specifically, we propose that persons with autism can benefit from increased levels of adenosine, a powerful inhibitory neuromodulator and the core molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). We review the literature and present recent data obtained via a customized questionnaire administered to parents of children with a confirmed autism diagnosis. This customized questionnaire demonstrates that symptoms of autism are reduced subsequent to stimuli predicted to increase adenosine. In addition, we present evidence from the literature and pilot data from a retrospective study of children with epilepsy or epilepsy and autistic behavior who were treated with a ketogenic diet, a long established anticonvulsant therapy that recently has been shown to suppress seizures via the adenosine A1 receptor (A1R) subtype. Our discussion focuses on the actions of adenosine in the central nervous system, with multiple implications for ASD, and the potential for developing new evidence-based therapies. Taken together, published peer-reviewed research and recent preliminary research suggest that adenosine could help resolve multiple physiological and behavioral symptoms of ASD.


Originally published as an Open Access article as follows:

Susan A. Masino, Julia Svedova, Masahito Kawamura, Jr., Francis D. DiMario, Jr. and Inge-Marie Eigsti (2011). "Adenosine and Autism - Recent Research and a New Perspective." Autism - A Neurodevelopmental Journey from Genes to Behaviour, Valsamma Eapen (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-493-1, InTech, Available from:

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