Love Hormone Oxytocin Helps Children with Autism

2012-05-21 07:15

Oxytocin is sometimes called the love hormone because it has a role in maternal bonding. But there could be another “love connection” associated with oxytocin, as researchers have shown that the hormone may help children with autism.

Oxytocin could be part of autism treatment

Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus in the brain, as well as secreted by two sex organs—the testes and the ovaries. In addition to maternal bonding, oxytocin is instrumental in transporting sperm within the reproductive system, stimulating lactation, and perhaps also has an effect on male sexual behavior.

In a new ongoing, double-blind, placebo-controlled study at Yale School of Medicine, a team of researchers have reported that oxytocin can increase brain function in areas that are associated with the processing of social information in young people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To arrive at this conclusion, the team has been working with children and adolescents ages 7 to 18 years who have ASD.

The study, which is the first of its kind, involves administering oxytocin in a nasal spray to the study participants and then observing their brain function using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Investigators observed increased activity in areas linked to tasks involving seeing, hearing, and processing information associated with understanding other people.


Among the symptoms of autism are those associated with social interactions and relationships, including difficulty understanding another person’s feelings (lack of empathy), lack of interest in sharing enjoyment and interests of other people, and failure to establish friendships with people their own age.


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