Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oxytocin boosts social acuity in children with autism, study indicates

LOS ANGELES — Oxytocin, the "cuddle" hormone that makes mothers' milk flow, men faithful to their mates and even tough negotiators more trusting, also makes children with autism more attuned to social cues in others, a new study says.

The study found that compared with autistic children who got a placebo nasal spray, autistic children who got a puff of oxytocin up the nose responded to pictures of people's faces with greater activation in their brains' "social circuits" and in the regions key to reward and motivation. When an autistic child got oxytocin and was asked to identify images of socially neutral things such as cars and trucks, activity in these social and motivation brain regions were notably less active than they were in those on the placebo.

The study, conducted by researchers at Yale University, was published this week in the journal PNAS.

"These results may imply that oxytocin makes social stimuli more rewarding and socially salient to children with autism spectrum disorder," the authors wrote. Citing oxytocin research on animals, the authors speculated that when a shot of oxytocin hits the autistic brain, it boosts the "signal-to-noise" ratio in regions that make sense of our social world, and makes positive social interaction easier and more pleasant.

When the study's 17 participants were asked to identify the emotion that a pictured face was expressing, oxytocin did not improve their speed or accuracy in answering. But that might change with more practice under oxytocin's influence, the researchers suggested.

With the regions of the brain that are suited to the task of reading social cues working more normally, kids with autism might be able to reverse the cascade of effects that may characterize autism: Those may start as a subtle deficit in social drive and motivation during infancy, prompting these children to interact less, resulting in poorer social skills and brains that develop more and more differently than those of typically developing children.

With oxytocin-aided social skills training, that cascade of developmental differences might be interrupted, or at least blunted, many researchers believe.

Oxytocin boosts social acuity in children with autism, study indicates 12/04/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 4, 2013 9:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. A boy and a girl stare at the camera from their house after Hurrciane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. [Associated Prss]
  2. Young girl injured by 105 mph foul at Yankee Stadium renews call for more netting

    Ml

    NEW YORK — A young girl at Yankee Stadium was injured by a 105 mph foul ball off the bat of Todd Frazier during Wednesday's game against Minnesota, leading some players to call for protective netting to be extended.

    Baseball fans reacts as a young girl is tended to before she is carried out of the seating area after being hit by a line drive in the fifth inning of a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. [Associated Press]
  3. Even a weakened Irma leaves its mark on Pasco

    Hurricanes

    It was a Category 5, a Category 3, a tropical storm. It was Hurricane Irma, and she turned out to be a little fickle by the time she touched Pasco County.

    But she had strong breath.

    Above, James Robbins of New Port Richey paddles on Elfers Parkway after checking on his cats living on the second floor of his home on the Anclote River.
  4. Photo of the Day for September 21, 2017 - A Gorgeous sunset on the gulf

    Human Interest

    Today's Photo of the Day comes from Evan Kaplan of New Port Richey, FL.

  5. State shuts down Hollywood nursing home where 9 died in scorching heat

    State Roundup

    HOLLYWOOD — The Hollywood Hills nursing home that became a sweltering deathtrap for nine seniors after Hurricane Irma was shut down Wednesday.

    Dawn Schonwetter stops to look at a memorial of flowers and messages left on the sidewalk of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Nine residents of the nursing home died in the wake of Irma, including one who was added to the death toll on Tuesday. [AL DIAZ | Miami Herald]