Hyperthermia and the Improvement of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Symptoms
Objectives: To assess the effect of hyperthermia on ASD symptoms.
Methods: We completed a double blind crossover study of 15 children with ASD (5 to 17 years) using two treatment conditions, hyperthermia condition (102°F) and control condition (98°F) in a HydroWorx aquatic therapy pool. Five children with ASD without fever response acted as controls, completing only the hyperthermia condition, to ensure safety and feasibility. Safety measures and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) were collected. Ten patients with ASD and history of fever response were enrolled and received both treatment conditions. Vital signs, temperature monitoring and clinical observations were completed throughout their time in the pool. Parents completed the SRS and RBS-R. Pupillometry biomarker and buccal swabs for DNA and RNA extraction were collected pre and post pool entry.
Results: Ten subjects with ASD and a history of fever response were enrolled and completed the hyperthermia condition (102°F) and control condition (98°F) at the aquatic therapy pool. Improvement during the hyperthermia condition (102°F) was observed in social cognition, using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) total raw score (p = 0.0430) and the SRS Social Behavior subscale raw scores (p = 0.0750); repetitive behaviors, using the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS; p =0.0603) and the SRS Restricted and Repetitive Behavior subscale (p = 0.0146); and on global improvement, using the Clinical Global Impression Scale-Improvement (CGI-I; p=0.0070).
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of observing the direct effect of temperature in children with ASD, both with and without a history of febrile response, and provides preliminary data on the relationship between body temperature and changes in social and behavioral measures. It explores the direct effects of temperature on ASD symptoms, and offers a window into understanding mechanisms involved in improvement in ASD symptoms during fever episodes. Behavior changes observed for each child were similar to those observed by parents during febrile episodes, including increased cooperation, communication and social reciprocity and decreased hyperactivity and inappropriate vocalizations. This study is important for the development of translational models on the mechanism of symptom improvement and the identification of novel targets for therapeutic development.
Funding provided by the Simons Foundation.