A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2016 | Number 3, Volume 30

Correcting metabolic abnormalities can ease depression

A new study reports that depression— a common problem for individuals with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism—can often be addressed effectively by correcting metabolic deficiencies. 

Lisa Pan and colleagues performed plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) profiles on 33 teens and young adults with treatment-resistant depression and 16 controls. They found that 64 percent of the participants who suffered from depression had a deficiency in neurotransmitter metabolism, compared with none of the controls. The most common issue was cerebral folate deficiency (normal serum folate levels and low CSF levels of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate), detected in 12 individuals with depression. 

The researchers report that for nearly all individuals with metabolic deficiencies, correcting these deficiencies reduced symptoms of depression—in some cases leading to complete remission. Moreover, the longer treatment lasted, the more the individuals’ symptoms improved. 

Pan says, “It’s really exciting that we now have another avenue to pursue for patients for whom our currently available treatments have failed. This is a potentially transformative finding for certain groups of people with depression.”


“Nonmetabolic disorders: Potentially treatable abnormalities in patients with treatmentrefractory depression and suicidal behavior,” Lisa A. Pan, Petra Martin, Thomas Zimmer, Anna Maria Segreti, Sivan Kassiff, Brian W. McKain, Cynthia A. Baca, Manivel Rengasamy, Keith Hyland, Nicolette Walano, Robert Steinfeld, Marion Hughes, Steven K. Dobrowolski, Michele Pasquino, Rasim Diler, James Perel, David N. Finegold, David G. Peters, Robert K. Naviaux, David A. Brent, and Jerry Vockley, American Journal of Psychiatry, August 9, 2016 (online). Address: Lisa A. Pan, [email protected]

 “Correcting metabolic deficiencies may improve depression symptoms,” news release, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, August 9, 2016.