Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oxytocin improves social abilities in some kids with autism

Children with autism showed improved social behavior when treated with oxytocin, a hormone linked to social abilities, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Children with low oxytocin benefited most from the medication, the study found.

Some key points from the article: 

The new study included 32 children with autism who were randomly assigned to receive an intranasal oxytocin spray or a placebo spray twice daily for four weeks. The children’s blood oxytocin levels were measured before and after the four-week period. The children’s behavior was assessed at the beginning and end of the trial using a standardized questionnaire completed by their parents. 

Intriguing placebo effect

As in many trials, the researchers saw some improvement even in children given the placebo, though the effect was less pronounced than it was in the oxytocin group. Children who had low oxytocin at baseline received more benefit from placebo than those who began with high oxytocin — and their bodies’ own production of the hormone rose modestly. This unexpected finding suggests a possible biological explanation for the placebo effect, which is common in studies of psychological and psychiatric treatments, Parker said. The idea that increases in natural oxytocin production might explain how patients benefit from a placebo merits future research, she added.

Read more here.