Yale researchers have shown that oxytocin increases brain function in children who have been diagnosed with autism.
The research is in its preliminary stages.
"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,” said Ilanit Gordon, co- author of the study.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD’s handle information in their brain differently than other people.
In the first-of-its-kind study, the researchers at Yale conducted a study on adolescents diagnosed with autism. They gave the children a single dose of oxytocin and studied its effect on the region of brain that is known to process social information.
The researchers found that oxytocin activated the regions that process social information like seeing hearing, reacting to people etc.
The study was presented on May 19 at the International Meeting for Autism Research.
Earlier studies have linked oxytocin to improvement in social information processing ability in autistic children. A study published in Biological Psychiatry said that oxytocin can be used in the treatment of autism.
Another study published in the same journal says that oxytocin might be helpful in “mind-reading”. The test subjects in this particular study were asked to infer mental state of people. The researchers found that subjects on oxytocin were better at detecting what is happening in other peoples’ minds just by looking at them.
ASD’s are ‘spectrum disorders’. The intensity of the disability varies from person to person. In some cases the disability is so mild that it can go undetected for many years.
In the US, 1 in 88 children and 1 in every 54 boys are born with autism, CDC says.
According to a recent study, mothers who were obese were 67% more likely to have a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) than normal weight mothers who did not have diabetes.