Is this ASD research a potential game-changer?

oxytocinThere is new research and findings about causes and potential therapies for autism every week, but the following caught my eye in particular. I've reproduced a section below and you can link through for the remainder.

The following article snippet is from Medscape Medical News reporting from the 12th Annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)


The research has found that intranasal oxytocin appears to normalise fixated or restricted interest, a core deficit in autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

This expands the spectrum of normalising effects now being reported for intranasal oxytocin, essentially "completing the picture" of how the neuropeptide ameliorates the 3 key distinguishing features of ASD.

"In autism, there are 3 basic deficits — social communication, repetitive behavior, and fixated or restricted interest, where children get fixated on a particular pattern or sensory stimulation and have difficulty paying attention to other, more socially relevant cues," Lane Strathearn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, told Medscape Medical News.

"So this is the first time that this particular aspect of autistic behavior has been examined in relation to oxytocin, and we've shown that oxytocin has some effect on all 3 aspects of autism behavior, including now fixated interest."

The study was presented here at the 12th Annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

You can access the rest of this article on Medscape here although you may need to register for free first.

When you've read it, do come back here and leave your views - is it just more of the same or do you think this is a potential game-changer?


Tania Tirraoro


  1. I am very cautious about this research paper. I have no scientific background but I know that oxytocin is naturally produced by physical contact; for instance a hug. So is this love in a bottle? Also got to be careful that this isn’t implying that there is a lack of parental affection. Children on the autistic spectrum vary in their behaviours and sensitivities, so does this mean the dose given is set differently for each child?

    On a personal level, my sons understanding of appropriate behaviours may become blurred when excited, and as teenage years (very) quickly approaches and testosterone levels runs high, how will this ‘love drug’ help him? I wonder if it will further frustrate him!

    Looking at this slightly differently (and still unscientifically), a woman’s labor is often sped up by the drug Pitocin. Worryingly more and more women are being administered this type of artificial oxytocin to induce labor contractions. This often speeds things up so quickly, that our own body’s natural endorphins are unable to be released (which is the bodies natural pain relief), hence woman become quickly overwhelmed by excruciating levels of pain, many have to receive artificial pain relief such as an epidural.

    I wonder if… Pitocin (the artificial oxytocin) knocks out babies natural oxytocin because the babies body receives such a huge surge (from the Pitocin) that it then blocks and interferes with the babies natural release of oxytocin…

    So now… oxytocin in a bottle, are they trying to undo the damage to late?

    Maybe it would be more beneficial for monies to be spent researching the wider effects of Pitocin instead.

    But, like I said, these are only my thoughts and completely non-scientific based.

  2. There has been a lot of talk about oxytocin, for balance try this:

    “Other results would further discolor the rose-tinted view. Some scientists have found that oxytocin boosts envy and schadenfreude, as well as favoritism toward one’s own clique. In one experiment, volunteers who played a game with people they knew were more cooperative after a noseful of oxytocin, while those who played with anonymous strangers became less cooperative.”

    You are right to be cautious!

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