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Autism Diagnosis: Serotonin in the Autistic Child and Adult

There are many important functions of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the body: it is responsible for our mood, sleep and appetite, as well as our social abilities. Small Steps Big Dreams, Dubai, UAE has gathered information regarding the link between serotonin and Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of the first biomarkers of ASD to be identified was hyperserotonemia, which refers to elevated levels of serotonin in the blood. More than 25% of autistic children have been reported as having hyperserotonemia in various studies.

In the early days, when diagnosis of autism was quite rare, hyperserotonemia was introduced. This condition was majorly misdiagnosed (considered a side-effect of bad parenting). However, now that autism diagnosis has evolved, along with autism therapy in UAE, we believe it is time to acquaint ourselves with what is believed to have been the primary biomarker of ASD.

Gut serotonin and ASD

Not only is serotonin related to depression, it is also significant for our intestines. In the intestine, it is responsible for stimulating the muscles involved in digestion.

The serotonin that is derived from the gut is unable to cross over to the brain. The brain has its own serotonin production sites. The precursor of serotonin, tryptophan, is controlled by the gut. According to our research, carried out to help improve autism therapy in Dubai, it has been determined that immune responses can increase the level of serotonin in the gut. This eventually leads to increased repetitive behavior and decreased social ability, both of which are features of ASD. The cause of high levels of serotonin in the blood is the gastrointestinal hypersecretion of serotonin. This hypersecretion may be due to either genetic factors, or infections.

The autistic child was deduced to suffer more severe autistic behavior with the availability of a high amount of tryptophan in the gut and lower levels of serotonin in the brain.

Brain serotonin and ASD

For optimum autism treatment in UAE, knowledge of the chemistry of the brain is essential. Research has identified that, when the uptake of serotonin into the presynaptic neuron is increased, it leads to a decrease in the synaptic serotonin. In adults with ASD, the availability of synaptic serotonin is much less than normal. Serotonin is also known for its involvement in neuronal development. In the developing brain, the function of serotonin not only includes neurodevelopment; but it also acts as a growth factor. The ASD symptoms that may worsen with low levels of brain serotonin are repetitive behavior (which increases), more mood swings, greater irritability, and increased struggle with face processing and sociability.

Blood serotonin and ASD

When discussing the role of serotonin in the blood, the most basic fact to keep in mind is that it causes vasoconstriction and vasodilation. These two processes, essential for the functioning of the human body, is why research regarding the serotonin levels in the blood was deemed important for better autism treatment in Dubai.

One of the earliest relevant studies was performed in 1961, where autistic patients were analyzed; and it was reported that they contained high levels of serotonin in their blood. The ratio was determined as 1 out of 4 autistic children having hyperserotonemia. Hyperserotonemia is also synonymous with high blood serotonin levels. Studies have also confirmed that whole blood levels of serotonin are inheritable. This conclusion could easily sum up that ASD could be genetic too. There are various mechanisms which contribute to higher serotonin levels in the blood. They can be an increase in the production of serotonin, or the increase in the serotonin transporter protein. It can also be both.

Serotonin transporter protein

The link between whole blood serotonin and ASD is genetic. This explains the fact that there is an association of ASD with the chromosomal region that contains the serotonin transporter gene, also known as the SERT gene. The SERT plays a vital role in psychiatric disorders like OCD (which is short for obsessive-compulsive disorder), anxiety and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors usually bind to the SERT, and then block the uptake of serotonin from the synapse.

Antidepressants and serotonin

As a part of autism support in UAE, the choice of pharmacological agents for autism treatment in UAE could be thoroughly considered. There haven’t been any elaborate studies on the use of antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs (which is short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), for autism treatment. However, it has been noted that the depletion of tryptophan causes a decrease in the synaptic serotonin. And this leads to worsened symptoms and irritability in autism.

Future studies

Previous studies have described that serotonin may be a good biomarker for the determination and diagnosis of autism. As researchers have explained, the levels of serotonin and SERT are possibly quite high in autistic children. They also claim that the serotonin can be correlated with the severity of ASD symptoms. For the future, various drugs are being developed for the activation of serotonin receptors, which provides hope for improved autism support in Dubai.

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