Oxytocin Improves Brain Function in Autistic Children
Preliminary results from an ongoing, large-scale study of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), shows that oxytocin increased function in brain regions known to process social information
A Yale Child Study Center research team that includes postdoctoral fellow Ilanit Gordon and Kevin Pelphrey, the Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, presented the results on Saturday, May 19 at the International Meeting for Autism Research.
Gordon: "Our findings provide the first, critical steps toward devising more effective treatments for the core social deficits in autism, which may involve a combination of clinical interventions with an administration of oxytocin. Such a treatment approach will fundamentally improve our understanding of autism and its treatment."
Social-communicative dysfunctions are a core characteristic of autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that can have an enormous emotional and financial burden on the affected individual, their families, and society.
Gordon said that while a great deal of progress has been made in the field of autism research, there remain few effective treatments and none that directly target the core social dysfunction.
Oxytocin has recently received attention for its role in many aspects of social behavior and social cognition in humans and other species.
To assess the impact of oxytocin on the brain function, Gordon and her team conducted a first-of-its-kind, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on children and adolescents aged 7 to 18 with ASD. The team members gave the children a single dose of oxytocin in a nasal spray and used functional magnetic resonance brain imaging to observe its effect.
They found that oxytocin increased activations in those brain regions known to process social information such as seeing, hearing, and processing information relevant to understanding other people.
Other authors on the study include Randi H. Bennett, Brent C. vander Wyk, James F. Leckman, and Ruth Feldman.
Original article:: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/yu-oib051812.php