ACTH therapy benefits stuttering and autism

Aug 30, 2018 | Autism Science and Research News

Adrenocorticotropic hormone therapy in patients with nighttime subclinical seizure activity improves their stuttering and autism symptoms

ACTH therapy improves core symptoms of autism alongside EEG parameters and sublinical seizures.

In a retrospective study a total of 25 patients with attention deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD) or autism spectrum and comorbid stuttering were followed and treated with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) for electrical status epilepticus in sleep (ESES). Following treatment with ACTH, normalisation of EEG parameters and subclinical epileptiform activity in all the patients was accompanied by a 72% improvement in ADHD or autism symptoms, and 83.8% improvement in stuttering. Twelve of the 25 patients with stuttering showed complete treatment response. The authors noted that the improvement in stuttering had a positive correlation with improvement in ADHD or autism symptoms.

“Following treatment with ACTH, a reduction in spike–wave index (SWI) in all the patients was accompanied by a 72% improvement in ADHD or ASD, and 83.8% improvement in stuttering. Twelve of the 25 patients with stuttering showed complete treatment response. Linear regressions established that SWI at final visit significantly predicted improvement in ADHD or ASD, and in stuttering.

“Stuttering shows a high rate of comorbidity with other developmental disorders such as ADHD and ASD. Language related symptoms in patients with benign focal epilepsies of childhood and LKS also involve stuttering…

The literature reports ESES activity in various developmental disorders. Abnormal epileptiform activities in ADHD/ASD patients have been documented, with an overall prevalence of epileptiform discharges ranging from 14% to 83% in various studies.

Our previous study illustrates that the onset or recurrence of ADHD symptoms is associated with the progressing epileptiform activity; when SWI is around 10–15%, neuropsychiatric symptoms appear. The underlying etiology may play a significant role in the pathophysiology of ESES, stuttering and other comorbidities, thereby connecting ESES to other developmental disorders.

According to the literature enhanced epileptiform activity is associated with cognitive and behavioral impairment while treatment with hormonal therapy is reported to improve language, cognition and behavior.


Altunel A, Sever A, & Altunel EÖ. (2017) ACTH has beneficial effects on stuttering in ADHD and ASD patients with ESES: A retrospective study. Brain Dev. Feb;39(2):130-137. doi: 10.1016/j.braindev.2016.09.001..


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