, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 227-239

The effects of haloperidol on discrimination learning and behavioral symptoms in autistic children

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This double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical trial in autistic children had three objectives: (a) to replicate earlier findings that haloperidol administration is associated with a significant reduction of behavioral symptoms; (b) to further assess its safety when given on a short-term basis: and (c) to assess whether it has an effect on discrimination learning. Forty-five children, 2.02 to 7.58 years old (M=4.49), completed this crossover design, with random assignment to treatment sequences. Haloperidol was shown to be a powerful therapeutic agent when administered for 4 weeks and free of side effects; at doses ranging from 0.25 to 4.0 mg/day (M=0.844), there was a clinically and statistically significant reduction of a variety of symptoms. Under the given conditions, the children failed to learn on either haloperidol or placebo.

This work was supported in part by National Institute of Mental Health grant MH 32212 and was aided by Social and Behavioral Sciences Research grant 12-108 from March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation (Dr. Campbell). The authors thank Dr. Dennis Grega and Mr. Charles W. Hamilton for participating in this research; Dr. Michael Palij for analyzing the discrimination learning data; Dr. John E. Overall for statistical consultation; and McNeil Pharmaceutical for Haldol and matching placebo tablets.