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Scientists probe oxytocin therapy for social deficits in autism, schizophrenia.

JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 30.39). 02/2011; 305(7):659-61. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2011.117
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: IMPORTANCE Sociocommunicational deficits make it difficult for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to understand communication content with conflicting verbal and nonverbal information. Despite growing prospects for oxytocin as a therapeutic agent for ASD, no direct neurobiological evidence exists for oxytocin's beneficial effects on this core symptom of ASD. This is slowing clinical application of the neuropeptide. OBJECTIVE To directly examine whether oxytocin has beneficial effects on the sociocommunicational deficits of ASD using both behavioral and neural measures. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS At the University of Tokyo Hospital, we conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject-crossover, single-site experimental trial in which intranasal oxytocin and placebo were administered. A total of 40 highly functioning men with ASD participated and were randomized in the trial. INTERVENTIONS Single-dose intranasal administration of oxytocin (24 IU) and placebo. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined effects of oxytocin on behavioral neural responses of the participants to a social psychological task. In our previous case-control study using the same psychological task, when making decisions about social information with conflicting verbal and nonverbal contents, participants with ASD made judgments based on nonverbal contents less frequently with longer time and could not induce enough activation in the medial prefrontal cortex. Therefore, our main outcomes and measures were the frequency of the nonverbal information-based judgments (NVJs), the response time for NVJs, and brain activity of the medial prefrontal cortex during NVJs. RESULTS Intranasal oxytocin enabled the participants to make NVJs more frequently (P = .03) with shorter response time (P = .02). During the mitigated behavior, oxytocin increased the originally diminished brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (P < .001). Moreover, oxytocin enhanced functional coordination in the area (P < .001), and the magnitude of these neural effects was predictive of the behavioral effects (P ≤ .01). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE These findings provide the first neurobiological evidence for oxytocin's beneficial effects on sociocommunicational deficits of ASD and give us the initial account for neurobiological mechanisms underlying any beneficial effects of the neuropeptide. TRIAL REGISTRATION umin.ac.jp/ctr Identifier: UMIN000002241 and UMIN000004393.
    JAMA Psychiatry 12/2013; 71(2). DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.3181 · 12.01 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previous findings have shown that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evince greater intra-individual variability (IIV) in their sensory-evoked fMRI responses compared to typical control participants. We explore the robustness of this finding with a new sample of high-functioning adults with autism. Participants were presented with visual, somatosensory and auditory stimuli in the scanner whilst they completed a one-back task. While ASD and control participants were statistically indistinguishable with respect to behavioral responses, the new ASD group exhibited greater IIV relative to controls. We also show that the IIV was equivalent across hemispheres and remained stable over the duration of the experiment. This suggests that greater cortical IIV may be a replicable characteristic of sensory systems in autism.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 10/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10803-014-2276-6 · 3.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background: We critically reexamine extant theory and empirical study of Oxytocin. We question whether OT is, in fact, a "social neuropeptide" as argued in dominant theories of OT. Method: We critically review human and animal research on the social and non-social effects of Oxytocin, including behavioral, psychophysiological, neurobiological, and neuroimaging studies. Results: We find that extant (social) theories of Oxytocin do not account for well-documented non-social effects of Oxytocin. Furthermore, we find a range of evidence that social and non-social effects of Oxytocin may be mediated by core approach-avoidance motivational processes. Conclusions: We propose a General Approach-avoidance Hypothesis of Oxytocin (GAAO). We argue that the GAAO may provide a parsimonious account of established social and non-social effects of Oxytocin. We thus re-conceptualize the basic function(s) and mechanism(s) of action of Oxytocin. Finally, we highlight implications of the GAAO for basic and clinical research in humans.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 10/2014; 47. DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.10.007 · 10.28 Impact Factor

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