Oxytocin, the “love hormone” and autism

25 May

Why oxytocin could be a treatment for autism.

by Lirio Sobrevinas-Covey, Ph.D.

Prior research has suggested that administration of oxytocin, a natural hormone produced in the brain, could enhance socialization behaviors in persons with autism (see Young & Barrett, Science, Feb 20, 2015).
The article referenced below describes research findings of vast, positive effects of oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the love hormone”, in general populations, which could underlie the beneficial effect of oxytocin in persons who experience difficulties in social interactions and relationships, such as individuals with autism.
The oxytocin-autism relationship is of interest for a number of reasons – genetic associations between autism and oxytocin have been identified; oxytocin deficiency could be involved in autism; oxytocin receptor activity could identify those at risk of autism, and conversely, oxytocin treatment could confer improvements in socializing abilities. Although several other candidate medications have been examined (sertraline, naltrexone, etc), no conclusive evidence indicating effectiveness of those medications in treating the fundamental symptoms of autism have been observed. Oxytocin treatment could be a possible approach for alleviating difficulties in social interactions, one of the two core symptom that define autism spectrum disorder (the other is repetitive, stereotypical behaviors). Clinical trials testing this possibility are ongoing.

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