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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Catatonia meds; academia’s reimbursement problem

by  /  16 April 2023
Speech bubble formed by a network of communication

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

A flurry of tweets this week featured new findings about treating aggression and self-injury — manifestations of hyperactive catatonia — in children with profound autism.

The study, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology on 6 April, suggests that benzodiazepines other than lorazepam can help alleviate symptoms of hyperactive catatonia.

Although the study included only five participants, “using clonazepam, diazepam, valproic acid, memantine, and reducing antipsychotic medications was effective,” tweeted Joshua Ryan Smith of Vanderbilt University in a thread explaining his team’s work.

The drugs offer alternatives to lorazepam — the standard first-line treatment for catatonia — and electroconvulsive therapy, and provide hope for lorazepam non-responders. “Given the limited access to ECT across the world and the recent lorazepam shortages, this is a big deal,” Smith noted.

This is fascinating!” tweeted Ava Gurba of Stony Brook University.

“Feeling grateful seeing this absolutely vital work continuing to be published!” tweeted Cassie Stevens of the University of Kansas.

Important clinical lead for the hard to treat,” tweeted Meng-Chuan Lai of the University of Toronto.

Elsewhere on Twitter, many scientists weighed in on a Spectrum article about the issues with academia’s reimbursement culture, especially for many early-career researchers.

“No one should have the costs of 1-3 conferences on their credit card while waiting months to be reimbursed by their institution,” tweeted Lillian Brady of Vanderbilt University, who was quoted in the article.

“Absolutely agree,” wrote Lucia Peixoto of Washington State University.

Reducing the obstacles so trainees can get travel advances” could directly address the problem, tweeted John Christianson of Boston College.

Relying on reimbursement is especially tough on international students, said Lauren Kelly of the University of Manitoba, as they often “can only access credit cards with $500 limits.”

Deanna Santer, also of the University of Manitoba, tweeted that she was surprised labs don’t use a lab credit card to cover trainees’ travel expenses, adding that “we cannot expect trainees to wait weeks to be reimbursed and that is the easiest way to support them.”

“End reimbursement culture,” tweeted Joseph Smith of the University at Buffalo. Smith also pointed out that not everyone has access to credit cards or has the money to pay for such expenses up front.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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