Carter CS. Sex differences in oxytocin and vasopressin: implications for autism spectrum disorders? Behav Brain Res 176: 170-186

The Brain Body Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago 60612, USA.
Behavioural Brain Research (Impact Factor: 3.03). 02/2007; 176(1):170-86. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2006.08.025
Source: PubMed


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are male-biased and characterized by deficits in social behavior and social communication, excessive anxiety or hyperreactivity to stressful experiences, and a tendency toward repetitiveness. The purpose of this review is to consider evidence for a role for two sexually dimorphic neuropeptides, oxytocin (OT) and arginine vasopressin (VP), in these features of ASD. Both VP and OT play a role in normal development. VP is androgen-dependent and of particular importance to male behavior. Excess VP or disruptions in the VP system could contribute to the male vulnerability to ASD. Alternatively, protective processes mediated via OT or the OT receptor might help to explain the relatively rare occurrence of ASD in females. Disruptions in either OT or VP or their receptors could result from genetic variation or epigenetic modifications of gene expression, especially during early development. Deficits in other developmental growth factors, such as reelin, which may in turn regulate or be regulated by OT or VP, are additional candidates for a role in ASD.

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Available from: Carol Sue Carter, Aug 30, 2014
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    • "Some of these differences may relate to neurochemical variation in the brains of males and females. Both oxytocin and vasopressin are important for social behavior, and there are sex differences in the production and release of these neuropeptides, the location and density of their receptors, and their roles in social behavior (Bales and Carter, 2003; Carter, 2007). There are many sex differences in human psychiatric disorders, most notably anxiety and depression, which some argue are based on sex differences in responses to stress (Bangasser and Valentino, 2014). "
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    • "Next section will discuss the possibility of sex differences in NA OXT function in alloparental care. 5. Is there a sex difference in NA OXT function in alloparental care? The literature has strongly suggested the existence of sexual dimorphism in the behavioral effects of OXT and AVP (Carter, 2007; De Vries, 2008; Veenema et al., 2013; Wang et al., 2000 "
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    • "It is important to continue to examine the utility and predictive value of peripheral peptide measures, because until non-invasive technology advances significantly, central measures in living humans are difficult to obtain. Because previous research has shown numerous sex differences in baseline neuropeptide concentrations (Kramer et al., 2002; Miller et al., 2013), regulation by gonadal hormones (Witt et al., 1991; De Vries and Villalba, 1997; Cushing et al., 2003), and sensitivity to exogenous stimulation (Carter, 2003, 2007), we hypothesized that we would find sex-specific associations between plasma OT, AVP, and friendship. As high peripheral levels of OT and AVP have been associated with improved social functioning in the case of children with autism spectrum disorders (Modahl et al., 1998; Green et al., 2001), we specifically predicted that having more friendships (and particularly higher-quality friendships) would be associated with high OT in females and high AVP in males. "
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