Monday, January 13, 2014

New Data Suggest Oxytocin Treatment Can Improve Social Communication in Autism

A study reported in JAMA Psychiatry found that a single dose of intranasal oxytocin enhanced the ability of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to process complex verbal and nonverbal communications. Moreover, the researchers found that this improvement was associated with increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which has been shown to be diminished in ASD. The study was led by Hidenori Yamasue, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine in Japan.

"This is an extremely impressive study," Andrew Gerber, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Colulmbia University and a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said in an interview with Psychiatric News. "Though previous studies have hinted at the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin in improving the core symptoms of autism, this is the first well-designed randomized controlled trial to show its effect on conflicting verbal and nonverbal social information."

There is also reason to believe that oxytocin treatment might benefit social cognition in individuals with schizophrenia, Stephen Marder, M.D., of UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience, reported at the 2013 International Congress on Schizophrenia Research.

For more information about these findings, see the Psychiatric News article "Social Cognition in Schizophrenia May Improve With Oxytocin.



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