A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to evaluate the impact of the hormone on brain function in children with ASDs.
“We found that brain centres associated with reward and emotion recognition responded more during social tasks when children received oxytocin instead of a placebo,” said IIanit Gordon, a Yale Child Study Centre adjunct Assistant Professor and lead author of the study.
“Oxytocin temporarily normalised brain regions responsible for the social deficits seen in children with autism.”
Gordon said oxytocin facilitated social attunement, a process that makes the brain regions involved in social behaviour and social cognition activate more for social stimuli (such as faces) and activate less for non-social stimuli (such as cars).
“Our results are particularly important considering the urgent need for treatments to target social dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders,” Gordon added.