Adult Autism Asperger Syndrome – Oxytocin preliminary Testing Showed Improved Behavior

Adult Autism Asperger Syndrome – Oxytocin preliminary Testing Showed Improved Behavior

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New research is showing some promise with the treatment of two autism groups with the use of oxytocin. The research is first being presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's Annual Meeting (ACNP) annual meeting this week in Hollywood, Florida.

The study involved adults with autism and the use of oxytocin administered by intravenous fluid and nasal technologies. The high-functioning adult autism patients, also known as Asperger’s Syndrome participated in this study.

"Studies with animals have found that oxytocin plays a role in a variety of behaviors, including parent-child and adult-to-adult pair bonding, social memory, social cognition, anxiety reduction and repetitive behaviors," explained Dr. Bartz PhD and presenter of the study. "However," adds Dr. Hollander, MD, who is also presenting at the ACNP meeting, "we have only recently considered that administration of oxytocin can have behavioral effects. Autism is a particularly ripe neuropsychiatric disorder for studying this approach because it presents with the types of symptoms that have been found to be associated with the oxytocin system."

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"Repetitive behaviors are often overlooked as symptoms of autism in favor of more dramatic symptoms like disrupted social functioning," noted Hollander. "However, early repetitive behavior is often the best predictor of a later autism diagnosis."

The participants that had received the oxytocin infusion had improved considerably the repetitive behaviors over the 4 hour time of the procedure. The placebo group did not show any changes.

The researchers also tested the participants ability to detect if a pre-recorded sentence had anger, sadness, or happiness. They were asked to identify which emotion. The participants at two occasions received one time the oxytocin and the other time a placebo. The participants that received the oxytocin the first time was able to assign the emotion to the speech at the second time with the placebo two weeks later. This didn’t happen to the other participants that received the placebo first.

The researchers are continuing their research with a six week controlled trial of nasal administration of oxytocin.

"The intranasal administration of oxytocin is important because it may allow for better penetration of the blood brain barrier, and is easier to administer," explained Hollander. "When administered orally, oxytocin is metabolized and only a small amount reaches the brain. This is important because the behavioral effects of oxytocin are thought to result from its action on the brain."

"Our findings will need to be replicated in large scale, placebo controlled trials to fully explore treatment potential," said Hollander. "And, though both intravenous and intranasal approaches have been well tolerated, we need to understand more about the safety of these potential treatments, particularly before these effects are explored in autistic children."

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