A new research conducted by the University of Sydney has found that emotional, social, and behavioral issues among young children with autism can be dramatically improved with a short-term oxytocin treatment.
- Autism affects one in 68 American children
- Behavioral therapy is expensive, time consuming and offers mixed results
- University of Sydney researchers developed oxytocin-based treatment for autism
- The nasal spray treatment had minor averse effects
Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the study seems to be the first to provide evidence that autism in children can be treated medically with the synthetic hormone oxytocin, improving the lives of these children in relation to society.
The research of the University’s Brain and Mind Centre also features the first clinical trial focused on the safety and tolerability of using intranasal-administered oxytocin as an efficient treatment for young children with autism.
Autism still makes researchers scratch their heads, seeing that it’s such a complex brain disorder that has limited treatment alternatives. Statistically, one in every 68 children is affected by the mental condition characterized by difficulties in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors.
Doctors usually recommend behavioral therapies, but in spite of their effectiveness in correcting emotional and social impairments, they are rather time consuming – 40 hours per week – costly and showing mixed outcomes. The spectrum currently has no official medical treatment.
For the study, researchers enrolled 31 children aged 3-8 years old and administered a dose of oxytocin twice a day in the form of a nasal spray. Based on the most popular assessments of social responsiveness, the team led by Associate Professor Adam Guastella of the Brain and Mind Centre found that oxytocin treatment was proving efficient.
In addition to the reports of improvement in the therapy rooms of the Centre, the parents also revealed their child was more socially responsive at home. Overall, the nasal spray had received praised and the most common adverse effects were urination, thirst, and constipation.
Following the promising findings of this medical treatment, the team hopes to reinforce outcomes by conducting a longer sustained program of research. According to the Brain and Mind Centre’s findings discovered over the last 10 years, oxytocin has great effects in humans improving emotion recognition, eye gaze, and memory across a range of demographics.
But the clinical trial led by study co-author Professor Ian Hickie, the co-director of the Brain and Mind Centre, has offered the first results proving that oxytocin as medical treatment has benefits in correcting the social deficits that characterize autism.
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