Yale University researchers’ recent studies have shown significant results with oxytocin given to children with autism. This is the first study focused on oxytocin and autism. After administering ust a single dose via a nasal spray, there was increased brain activity.
Researchers administered the doses and then monitored brain activity in each of the subjects with the aid of an MRI. While the MRI scan was being done, the subjects who were mostly children and adolescents were shown both social and non social images. Autistic individuals have a unique reaction to social images and the study aimed to get to the root of what the core cause of their social dysfunction is. Autism is a neurological condition that affects brain functioning and causes those who have it to face challenges with communication and other social functioning.
The single dose of oxytocin enhanced overall activity in the brain, especially when subjects were shown socially oriented images. The regions of the brain responsible for reward and emotional connection were temporarily at normal levels during the course of the dosage. These brain regions could be activated during social activities in order to affect the deficits that occur in children with autism.
Researchers are excited about the findings of the study, saying it could help fulfill the need for autism treatments that deal with social dysfunction.
More about oxytocin
It has been nicknamed “the love hormone” after research has unveiled its important in emotional bonding. Research done on males with oxytocin have further revealed that the hormone may enhance partner attractiveness and even strengthen monogamy. It’s a revealing and fascinating find in a field that researchers have long been focusing on. The underlying forces that drive couples to practice monogamy, despite the fact that most mammals do not, have been of particular interest to scientists. Oxytocin clearly plays a big role in the practice and is naturally produced in the brain of humans.
A drug-like sensation
Because oxytocin stimulates the reward center of the brain, it produces an effect that is similar to drugs. Drug users can quickly become addicted because the sensations produced are so pleasant and give the feeling of having done something satisfying.
But high levels of oxytocin can also have a downside. The emotional pain experienced after separating from a partner could be attributed to lower levels of oxytocin in the brain. The reward center of the brain is then understimulated and falls into a dormant state. This needs to be taken into consideration when thinking about therapy with oxytocin. The hormone could boost sociability in autistic children and help couples stay together, but it could also increase the level in suffering when individuals become accustomed to having higher amounts. The effect is quite similar to a drug addict who experiences deeper levels of depression when increasing the amount of drugs they take.
Oxytocin has been shown to have different affects on women than on men. While men in relationships experienced a positive boost in fidelity and perception of their partners, women experienced something of an opposite effect. Scientists are still not quite sure what causes these different reactions, but the evidence may interfere with using oxytocin for autism and relationship therapies. Further studies are needed to determine whether the hormone can be safely and effectively used to treat these conditions.