Scientists Probe Oxytocin Therapy for Social Deficits in Autism, Schizophrenia

JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 35.29). 02/2011; 305(7):659-61. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2011.117
Source: PubMed
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    • "The modulation of IIV by dopamine fits well with neurocomputational studies in which dopamine dysregulation is assumed to alter the signal-to-noise ratio of neural information processing, effectively impairing the neuron's sensitivity to afferent signals, leading to noisier information (i.e., signal) processing and impaired cognitive functioning (Li et al. 2001; Lindenberger et al. 2011). Another potential neurotransmitter that has been linked to increased signal-to-noise ratios is oxytocin (Owen et al. 2013): individuals with autism show lower oxytocin levels compared to non-autistic individuals (Modahl et al. 1998; Wu et al. 2005), and oxytocin-related treatment has been suggested as a therapy for ASD (Kuehn 2011; Modi and Young 2012; Gordon et al. 2013). Yet a further and final possibility we consider is that the greater IIV in autism reflects reduced cortical maturity and white matter refinement. "
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
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    • "Although most studies to date have focused on the pro-social effects of OT, for example showing that experimental OT elevation increases judgments of attractiveness and trustworthiness of others [5], recent studies suggest it also increases envy and gloating [6], ethnocentrism [7] and in-group love and protectionism [8]. While originally OT was thought to promote human affiliation through enhancing pro-social emotions and judgments – and has even been described by researchers as the ‘love hormone’ [9] – findings showing that it also increases negative inter-personal and inter-group judgments have led to a re-evaluation of its role in social cognition [6]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Oxytocin has been shown to promote a host of social behaviors in humans but the exact mechanisms by which it exerts its effects are unspecified. One prominent theory suggests that oxytocin increases approach and decreases avoidance to social stimuli. Another dominant theory posits that oxytocin increases the salience of social stimuli. Herein, we report a direct test of these hypotheses. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study we examined approach-avoidance motor responses to social and non-social emotional stimuli. One hundred and twenty participants self-administered either 24 IU oxytocin or placebo and moved a lever toward or away from pictures of faces depicting emotional expressions or from natural scenes appearing before them on a computer screen. Lever movements toward stimuli decreased and movements away increased stimuli size producing the illusion that stimuli moved away from or approached participants. Reaction time data were recorded. The task produced the effects that were anticipated on the basis of the approach-avoidance literature in relation to emotional stimuli, yet the anticipated speeded approach and slowed avoidance responses to emotional faces by the oxytocin group were not observed. Interestingly, the oxytocin treatment group was faster to approach and avoid faces depicting disgust relative to the placebo group, suggesting a salience of disgust for the former group. Results also showed that within the oxytocin group women's reaction times to all emotional faces were faster than those of men, suggesting sex specific effects of oxytocin. The present findings provide the first direct evidence that intranasal oxytocin administration does not enhance approach/avoidance to social stimuli and does not exert a stronger effect on social vs. non-social stimuli in the context of processing of emotional expressions and scenes. Instead, our data suggest that oxytocin administration increases the salience of certain social stimuli and point to a possible role for oxytocin in behavioral prophylaxis.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    • "However, oxytocin is off-label for ASD treatment, and many questions still remain about the wider physiological effects of oxytocin and its safety on humans [8]. Regarding the long-term use of oxytocin, our recent case report has been the only one available; among the findings of that study, an autistic boy showed improvement of some social interactions such as mind or emotion reading, social memory, and positive communication after one year of oxytocin administration [9]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) exhibit core autistic symptoms including social impairments from early childhood and mostly show secondary disabilities such as irritability and aggressive behavior based on core symptoms. However, there are still no radical treatments of social impairments in these patients. Oxytocin has been reported to play important roles in multiple social behaviors dependent on social recognition, and has been expected as one of the effective treatments of social impairments of patients with ASDs. We present a case of a 16-year-old girl with autistic disorder who treated by long-term administration of oxytocin nasal spray. Her autistic symptoms were successfully treated by two month administration; the girl's social interactions and social communication began to improve without adverse effects. Her irritability and aggressive behavior also improved dramatically with marked decreases in aberrant behavior checklist scores from 69 to 7. This case is the first to illustrate long-term administration of oxytocin nasal spray in the targeted treatment of social impairments in a female with autistic disorder. This case suggests that long-term nasal oxytocin spray is promising and well-tolerated for treatment of social impairments of patients with ASDs.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · BMC Psychiatry
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