Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Donepezil: Definition

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102069-1



Donepezil is a central nervous system selective, reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that degrades acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter involved in the pathogenesis of autism-related behavioral deficits such as inattention, decreased cognitive flexibility, lack of social and communication abilities, and increased stereotypical behaviors. Thus, donepezil serves to increase levels and action duration of ACh in the hopes of reversing abnormal phenotypes caused by deficits in ACh production and/or receptor function. Currently, donepezil is most widely used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Its effectiveness has also been demonstrated in vascular and Parkinson’s-associated dementia. In ASD, donepezil has demonstrated improvements mainly in expressive language but also in terms of general behavior, i.e., irritability, hyperactivity, eye contact, and inappropriate speech. Evidence also suggests donepezil’s...


Sleep Duration Receptor Function General Behavior Cognitive Flexibility Stereotypical Behavior 
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References and Reading

  1. Chez, M. G., Buchanan, T. M., Becker, M., Kessler, J., Aimonovitch, M. C., & Mrazek, S. R. (2003). Donepezil hydrochloride: A double-blind study in autistic children. Journal of Pediatric Neurology, 1(2), 83–88.Google Scholar
  2. Doyle, R. L., Frazier, J., Spencer, T. J., Geller, D., Biederman, J., & Wilens, T. (2006). Donepezil in the treatment of ADHD-Like symptoms in youths with pervasive developmental disorder a case series. Journal of Attention Disorders, 9(3), 543–549.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Handen, B. L., Johnson, C. R., McAuliffe-Bellin, S., Murray, P. J., & Hardan, A. Y. (2011). Safety and efficacy of donepezil in children and adolescents with autism: Neuropsychological measures. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 21(1), 43–50.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 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.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Yoo, J. H., Valdovinos, M. G., & Williams, D. C. (2007). Relevance of donepezil in enhancing learning and memory in special populations: A review of the literature. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(10), 1883–1901.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Autism Program, Child Study Center, Yale 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