Effects of Metformin on Spatial and Verbal Memory in Children with ASD and Overweight Associated with Atypical Antipsychotic Use

J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2018 May;28(4):266-273. doi: 10.1089/cap.2017.0072. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


Objectives: Studies in humans and rodents suggest that metformin, a medicine typically used to treat type 2 diabetes, may have beneficial effects on memory. We sought to determine whether metformin improved spatial or verbal memory in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and overweight associated with atypical antipsychotic use.

Methods: We studied the effects of metformin (Riomet®) concentrate on spatial and verbal memory in 51 youth with ASD, ages 6 through 17 years, who were taking atypical antipsychotic medications, had gained significant weight, and were enrolled in a trial of metformin for weight management. Phase 1 was a 16-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group comparison of metformin (500-850 mg given twice a day) versus placebo. During Phase 2, all participants took open-label metformin from week 17 through week 32. We assessed spatial and verbal memory using the Neuropsychological Assessment 2nd Edition (NEPSY-II) and a modified children's verbal learning task.

Results: No measures differed between participants randomized to metformin versus placebo, at either 16 or 32 weeks, after adjustment for multiple comparisons. Sixteen-week change in memory for spatial location on the NEPSY-II was nominally better among participants randomized to placebo. However, patterns of treatment response across all measures revealed no systematic differences in performance, suggesting that metformin had no effect on spatial or verbal memory in these children.

Conclusions: Although further study is needed to support these null effects, the overall impression is that metformin does not affect memory in overweight youth with ASD who were taking atypical antipsychotic medications.

Keywords: atypical antipsychotic; autism spectrum disorder; memory; metformin; overweight.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Overweight / chemically induced
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Spatial Memory / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin