Oxytocin, Emotion, and Autism

Doctor Larry Young discusses how taking oxytocin may increase trust and affect social abilities in humans. This may be a future treatment for autism.

Building on our work with voles and other work in other animals, people have now started experimenting in humans to see what happens if you alter oxytocin in the human brain. We’re actually able to do that using an intra-nasal spray so you can sniff it and apparently some of the oxytocin gets into the brain, and now there’s been numerous studies showing how it affects various personality traits. Just for example, there was a paper published in Nature showing that if you sniff oxytocin you become more trusting; you trust other people more. There are other studies to show that it helps you to read the emotions of other people, so just by looking at their faces you can sort of infer what their emotion is. So I believe that there’s quite a bit of evidence that it does sort of enhance certain social interaction processes as well as social cognitive abilities, the way we think about our social world. There’s even been a study showing that oxytocin may actually enhance social cognitive function in individuals with autism or Asperger’s syndrome. So, this work may actually lead to some new treatment strategies that could be effective in treating the social domain in autism.

oxytocin, emotion, trust, autism, social interaction, personality, voles, nasal spray, treatment, larry, young

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