Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Anticholinesterase Inhibitors

  • Karthikeyan ArdhanareeswaranEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102056-1



Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter key in an individual’s ability to adapt to his/her environment and surrounding stimuli. ASD patients show many deficits in ACh production and receptor function. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme involved in the degradation of acetylcholine. Anticholinesterase inhibitors, or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChE-inhibitors), seek to block the action of this enzyme, thus increasing ACh levels and action durations. Examples that have been tested and shown beneficial effects in ASD patients include rivastigmine, donepezil, and galantamine. Improvements in expressive speech are consistent across the drugs. Reports also include improvements in irritability, hyperactivity, receptive language, social withdrawal, inattention, and anger management. Side-effect profiles include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Currently AChE-inhibitors are some of the most promising class of drugs in...


Social Withdrawal Action Duration Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitor Receptive Language Minimal Side Effect 
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References and Readings

  1. Hardan, A. Y., & Handen, B. L. (2002). A retrospective open trial of adjunctive donepezil in children and adolescents with autistic disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 12(3), 237–241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Nicolson, R., Craven-Thuss, B., & Smith, J. (2006). A prospective, open-label trial of galantamine in autistic disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 16(5), 621–629.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Niederhofer, H. (2003). Acetylcholinesterase-inhibitors in the treatment of autistic disorders. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 3(4), 409–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Rossignol, D. A. (2009). Novel and emerging treatments for autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 21(4), 213–236.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism Program, Child Study CenterYale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Program in Neurodevelopment and RegenerationYale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA