PerspectiveNeuroscience

Can oxytocin treat autism?

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Science  20 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6224, pp. 825-826
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa8120

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Summary

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) to be 1 in 68 children in the United States, yet no drugs to treat the debilitating social deficits of ASD are available. Oxytocin, a natural brain peptide produced in the hypothalamus, has received considerable attention as a potential treatment for social deficits in ASD. Acute intranasal oxytocin temporarily enhances social cognition, empathy, and reciprocity in individuals with ASD (1). However, recent clinical trials have yielded mixed results, leaving the field questioning whether oxytocin can live up to the hype.