Mulling over the evidence that the symptoms of autistic children recede during a fever—long reported by parents and confirmed by a study 2 years ago—two New York doctors had a “eureka moment,” seeing that link as a clue to treating the condition, Time reports. The same cluster of neurons in the brain stem, called the locus coeruleus, that controls fever also regulates a neurotransmitter that triggers arousal or alarm, as well as the kind of attention to environmental clues that kids with autism lack.
Medications that aim for the brain receptors of that neurotransmitter, called noradrenaline, could help treat the symptoms of autism, they argue. “We came to the conclusion that there could only be one system that would both ameliorate the effects of autism and govern fever,” says one doctor. “We could look at treating the receptor sites with some kind of pharmacotherapy.”