One dose of the hormone oxytocin improves autism symptoms, according to a new Japanese study. Researchers observed improvements in participants’ abilities to interpret facial expressions and emotions following a single dose of this hormone.
New Study Details
|Photo of fMRI image (US govt)|
In this study, 40 men with high functioning autism inhaled a dose of oxytyocin through a nasal spray. Ninety minutes later the men underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs). Researchers used the fMRI scans to measure brain activity.
Following the administration of oxytocin, researchers saw increased activity in the area of the brain that deals with empathy and emotion. In addition, they noted that study participants were better able to interpret emotional cues.
The study, “Oxytocin’s neurochemical effects in the medial prefrontal cortex underlie recovery of task-specific brain activity in autism: a randomized controlled trial,” is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
The results of the Japanese study are consistent with earlier studies involving autism and oxytocin. In a study by Yale School of Medicine, oxytocin was given to children with autism. After a single dose of this hormone, the children showed an increase in “social brain activity”.
A German study found similar results. After receiving oxytocin, 14 people with autism were better able to maintain eye contact and understand facial expressions.
What is Oxytocin?
|MindZiper via Wikimedia Commons|
Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions during childbirth. It is known as the love or cuddle hormone because it boosts trust, generosity and feelings of safety.
Can I treat my child with oxytocin?
Oxytocin is not approved for use as a treatment for autism. In addition, more research is needed on the safety and effectiveness of this hormone as a medication for autism. One pediatrician, Dr. Andrew Adesman of Cohen Children’s Medical Center said, “it will likely be several years before we have a clearer understanding of whether oxytocin is a safe and effective treatment.”
Parents should avoid purchasing oxytocin over the internet. These products are not checked for safety by the US Food and Drug Administration. Because they are not regulated, oxytocin supplements could contain other ingredients that are dangerous to consumers.